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SpaceX Continues Ambitious Launch Schedule with Next Mission, Fifth One This Year

spacex-three-recovered-rockets

Emily Calandrelli reports: Less than a month after their last successful mission, SpaceX is back at it again. Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 5:40pm EST tomorrow with telecommunications satellite Thaicom 8 on board.

What’s truly notable is that tomorrow’s launch will be the fifth one for SpaceX this year, demonstrating an increased launch frequency compared to last year.

In 2015, SpaceX conducted a total of six successful Falcon 9 launches, putting their launch frequency at about one launch every other month. So far this year, they’ve doubled that frequency with nearly one launch per month.

[Read the full story here, at TechCrunch]

In March, President of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, stated that the company actually plans to launch a total of 18 times in 2016, which would triple the number of successful launches compared to 2015. She also said that they plan to increase that launch rate even further the following year with 24 hopeful launches in 2017.

The expected increase would be remarkable considering there were only 82 recorded successful orbital launches in the entire world last year. This number was down from 2014, which saw 90 successful orbital launches – the highest number of annual launches in two decades.

With more Falcon 9 launches comes more rocket recovery attempts, and tomorrow’s mission will be no exception.

After the launch, SpaceX will make another attempted recovery of the first stage of their rocket on a drone ship out at sea.

SpaceX's Of Course I Still Love You drone ship / Image Courtesy of SpaceX

SpaceX’s Of Course I Still Love You drone ship / Image Courtesy of SpaceX

A land-based recovery was ruled out for this mission because Thaicom 8 needs to be inserted into geostationary orbit (GEO: an altitude of above 22,000 miles), which means the mission will require higher speeds and more fuel and wouldn’t be able to navigate back to land.

Missions like these are precisely why SpaceX has worked to perfect their sea-based landings.

Launches to Low Earth Orbit, like SpaceX’s commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station (an altitude of about 250 miles), don’t require the rocket to move as quickly as a GEO mission and are more likely to have sufficient fuel to navigate back to land.

Illustration of Thaicom 8 satellite / Image courtesy of Orbital ATK

Illustration of Thaicom 8 satellite / Image courtesy of Orbital ATK

If tomorrow’s recovery is successful, it will become the fourth recovered rocket for SpaceX and third recovered rocket on a drone ship. At least one of these rocket boosters will get another chance to fly in the next few months, according to Elon Musk.

Of course the real goal of tomorrow’s mission is centered on Thaicom 8, a commercial communications satellite from Asian satellite operator, Thaicom. Once in orbit, the satellite will provide TV and internet services to parts of India, Thailand, and eastern Africa….(read more)

Source: TechCrunch

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