by Chris Tobias
Ernie Banks, the famous Hall of Fame shortstop and first baseman who played for the Chicago Cubs for nearly two decades, was known for saying, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame– let’s play two!” This weekend, SpaceX will likely do its best Ernie Banks impersonation, launching not one, but two Falcon 9 rockets into the black inside of 72 hours.
That’s right– two launches, one from each coast. First up will be the rescheduled BulgariaSat-1 launch on Friday from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Cape Canaveral in Florida, which was originally scheduled to launch on June 15 but was postponed so that a suspect fairing valve could be replaced. The new launch window for this mission opens Friday at approximately 2:10 pm EDT (1810 GMT), and a backup launch opportunity is also available on Saturday, if necessary. The Falcon 9 first stage booster that will be used for this mission will fly for the second time when it blasts off with BulgariaSat-1. This same booster launched on January 14 of this year from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, then landed on a platform on one of SpaceX’s drone barges in the Pacific Ocean after carrying its payload into space. This time around, the booster will land on the recovery barge “Of Course I Still Love You,” which be anchored off the Florida coast.
Then on Sunday, a second Falcon 9 will launch a cluster of Iridium communications satellites from Vandenberg AFB, California. The launch window for this mission is scheduled for 4:24:59 pm EDT (1:24:59 pm PDT, or 2024:59 GMT). These satellites have an instantaneous launch window so that they can be deployed to the correct location in Iridium’s existing fleet of orbiting satellites.
If SpaceX is successful in pulling off this launch doubleheader, it will not only be the fastest turnaround time for Falcon 9 launches in the company’s history, but it will also be the shortest turnaround between launches in the history of the modern US commercial launch industry!
For those who are interested in watching SpaceX make history yet again, live webcasts for both of these launches should be available on SpaceX’s YouTube channel and at spacex.com approximately 20 minutes before liftoff.
It looks like it’ll be a great weekend, so to paraphrase the immortal words of Mr. Sunshine, let’s launch two!