A series of recent delays at Starship and Starlink prompted SpaceX’s spacecraft flight testing and the launch of two Falcon 9 rockets in the same roughly 25-hour period, potentially setting the stage for a hectic Wednesday and Thursday.
SpaceX announced a third delay to its Starlink-16 mission in late January 18th, pushing the launch to at least 8:02 AM ET (13:02 UTC), Wednesday, January 20 “to allow additional time for pre-launch inspections. “Delay from day eighteenth to day nineteenth” due to unfavorable weather in the recovery area “, Monday’s technical delay means that Starlink-16 is now scheduled to launch 25 hours before the launch of the second Falcon 9.
The mission, known as Transporter-1, can be launched between 9:24 and 10:24 AM EST (14: 24-15: 24 UTC), Thursday January 21 and will be the first launch of a dedicated Smallsat Rideshare program from SpaceX, the second East Coast polar launch in half a century, first ever Starlink pole launch. Meanwhile, although less certain, the Starship SN9 prototype is preparing for a fifth steady-firing attempt that could – if successful – precede a high-altitude launch attempt by just a day or two.
According to the paperwork known as Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) submitted and approved by the FAA, SpaceX is targeting the first high-altitude launch attempt of the Starship SN9 no later than (NET) 20 January. However, this schedule is very uncertain and is based on a successful Triple Raptor static fire now planned for January 19.
Within days, SpaceX quickly removed and replaced two of the Raptor’s three Starship SN9 engines after completing (with varying degrees of success) three unprecedented steady-fire tests in about several hours on January 13th. The replacement motors were almost fully installed by January 16.
This supplement to the new engines adds a level of uncertainty to what was already a relatively turbulent steady fire test campaign for the SN9, but if the missile is able to complete a full-duration burn this Tuesday, SpaceX can review the results and Starship SN9’s readiness to determine if it can be conducted. A quick flight test on Wednesday. Already late Monday, it’s safe to say a solid fire was successful And the Launching in ~ 48 hours is not exactly the most likely outcome.
At the same time, although it remains significant logistical challenges, the launch of two Falcon 9 orbital missiles and a booster landing in approximately 25 hours is a more likely proposition. Currently, all but one of SpaceX’s seven major missile recovery ships are deployed to support successive booster landings and one or two payload recovery attempts. Stay tuned for updates as we approach all three of SpaceX’s missions.