SpaceX Sets New Record With Falcon 9, Pens Mid November For Starship Test

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After several government documents showed a potential November launch date for the second Starship launch flight, SpaceX confirmed earlier today that the launch could take place as soon as mid-November if it receives regulatory clearance for the world’s largest rocket. After conducting Starship’s first orbital test flight attempt in April, SpaceX has taken a months-long break that has seen the firm make several upgrades to its rocket and rebuild the launch pad for the second flight.

SpaceX’s latest Starship announcement came a couple of hours before it flew and landed the Falcon 9 rocket for the 18th time. The mission launched 23 Starlink satellites into orbit, indicating that either SpaceX has managed to squeeze more performance out of its workhorse rocket or made satellite design changes.

SpaceX Launches 23 Gen2 Starlink Satellites For The Second Time On A Falcon 9 Rocket

The Falcon 9 rocket with the 23 Starlink satellites took off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 8:37 p.m. local time today. It marked the second time that 23 Gen2 satellites had flown on a Falcon 9 rocket, showing that SpaceX has slowly started to increase the capacity of its rocket to launch more spacecraft. The first Starlink Gen2 launch took place in February and it saw the Falcon 9 launch 21 spacecraft to low Earth orbit (LEO).

Since then, most of the Gen2 launches involved 22 Starlink satellites, and late October marked the first time that the Falcon 9 bumped this up to 23. This was followed by today’s launch, which also set another record for SpaceX in rocket reusability. The latest Starlink launch was the first time that SpaceX flew a rocket 18 times, and this particular booster has launched 12 Starlink missions, two satellite ride share missions, two NASA launches and another satellite.

In fact, the booster is the first privately operated rocket to have sent astronauts into space, as its inaugural flight was the NASA-SpaceX Demo-2 mission that flew astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS) in May 2020.

SpaceX Dragon 2 crew vehicle atop a Falcon 9 Block 5 booster at launch pad 39A in Florida during pre-flight checkouts on May 26, 2020 a day before the Demo-2 mission’s first launch attempt. SpaceX and NASA chose to forfeit this launch window due to weather constraints and the Dragon launched astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the ISS on May 30, 2020. (SpaceX/X)

Along with setting a new record with the Falcon 9, SpaceX also plans to attempt to set another record later this month through the Starship orbital flight test. This test will see the world’s largest rocket lift off from Boca Chica, Texas, and if the launch is successful, then fly a considerable distance before being discarded into the ocean.

The second Starship orbital test flight has been a consistent feature of media coverage in October. SpaceX is currently working with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to clear its water deluge system for the launch pad. The FWS is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to complete the Starship environmental review, with the FAA having completed the safety investigation part of the launch late last month.

In a tweet made on X (formerly Twitter), SpaceX shared earlier today that the “second flight test of a fully integrated Starship could launch as soon as mid-November, pending regulatory approval,” building up anticipation after notices from the Coast Guard and a NASA placeholder for an imaging aircraft have hinted at a November flight attempt. The FWS, for its part, has cautioned that the law allows it to spend months for an environmental review but added that it does not expect to take the full timeline duration for the evaluation.

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