As I said on Monday, I was awaiting SpaceX’s Starlink-15 mission launch before posting about SpaceX. Well it happened last night, Tuesday 24 November. Another 66 Starlink satellites were placed into their initial orbit (the satellites start at about 225 Km (~140 miles)). They will move up to a final 550 Km (~340 miles) orbit for operation. The Falcon 9 booster, B1049, used for this flight had flow 6 times before. They stuck the landing of the first stage on the recovery drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY)”. They now have a 7 times used booster setting a new record that only SpaceX owns. For me this kind of reuse was Science Fiction for most of my life.
The above follows SpaceX’s successful launch of the Sentinel-6A this past Saturday, 21 November from the West Coast Launch Facilities at Vandenburg AFB. That launch used Falcon 9 booster B1063, which I believe was a first use. I was late to the computer that day but did re-watch the live stream. The booster was successfully recovered on a Return to Launch Site landing right next to the actual launch pad.
The other SpaceX milestone this week was the successful static fire of the repaired Starship SN8 test article on this past Tuesday. I am adding the test article classification from what we used in aerospace that I worked in as these vehicles are still highly experimental. The repairs resulted from shards of Martyte blown up from the area underneath the test/launch stand that SN8 sits on. Those shards damaged equipment and wiring in the engine area causing damage to one of the 3 Raptor engines that was installed. Per Elon Musk, they are expecting to do the first 15 Km (49,213 ft) flight sometime from next Monday, 30 November, through next Wednesday, 2 December.
Elon still has some doubts about the success of the flight. Hopefully he is proven wrong. He was wrong with the first launch of the Falcon Heavy which he only gave a 50% chance of success to. That launch was mostly successful with just the core booster missing the drone ship.
Lot of things need to go right, so maybe 1/3 chance— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 25, 2020
This stuff is exciting! As I said above this reality used to be the stuff of Science Fiction. There really is the potential for private industry to take the lead in space flight and planetary exploration. Though there are some issues on the horizon. They rotate around the “wokeness” if Senator Biden becomes President. If the NASA Office of Planetary Protection and or the NASA Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group (EDIWG)can get their nose into SpaceX’s business because of a big-government, socialist leaning government all of this could be for naught. The Silicon Graybeard has an article “NASA Has an Anti-Exploration Group Fighting to Keep the US Earthbound” on the EDIWG.