In the wake of a successful launch of the first wave of its own Starlink communications satellites, SpaceX looks to return to contracted missions when it launches the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) for the Canadian Space Agency this week.
Image courtesy SpaceXNow
The launch window for the mission opens this Wednesday, June 12 at 10:17am EST (14:17 UTC) from Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC-4) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The mission’s $1 billion payload will be a fleet of three satellites designed to provide C-band data to the Canadian government and offer maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring, according to the Canadian Space Agency.
The Falcon 9 booster being used for this launch was previously flown for the Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission back in March. The CSA had initially wanted a brand new booster for the mission, but eventually settled on a previously-flown rocket in order to avoid any additional delays associated with the production of a new booster.
Following the launch, SpaceX will attempt another landing of the first stage of the Falcon 9 at Landing Zone 4 (formerly Space Launch Complex-4W) at VAFB. If successful, it will be the second land-based recovery of a Falcon 9 booster on the West Coast. (The first one occurred last October.) Officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base issued a warning that the Falcon 9’s return could cause one or more sonic booms that may be audible throughout Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.
For those who would like to view the launch, the SpaceX webcast of the mission should go live approximately 20 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…
For the past seven years we here at Take Back the Sky have been focusing our efforts to get a real-life manned spaceship named Serenity on SpaceX and its founder and CEO, Elon Musk. If you want to understand why we chose SpaceX and not Virgin Galactic, Boeing, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, or any other private company that’s in the business of building and launching spaceships, you need look no further than the upcoming Starlink-1 mission. While SpaceX has been in the business of making history (and making spaceflight sexy again) for some time now, this latest mission has several features that just exude the daring, independent spirit that we Browncoats value so highly.
Starlink-1 Mission Patch (courtesy SpaceX Now)
First of all, the mission’s very purpose is something any Browncoat would admire. With Starlink, SpaceX hopes to establish a mega-constellation of 12,000 satellites that will provide high-speed internet across the entire planet. The endeavor will cost Elon Musk and company roughly $10 billion, and it is expected to take approximately 10 years. When it’s finished, however, anyone will be able to have high-speed internet access anywhere on the globe, and the best connections will no longer be reserved for those who are in the most populated areas or have the finances to afford the equipment necessary to establish a good connection out on the raggedy edge. SpaceX plans to have half the constellation in orbit by 2024, with the full constellation out in the black by 2028.
The Starlink-1 launch, which is planned NET 10:30PM EDT on May 15 (02:30 GMT May 16) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, will be the sixth SpaceX launch of 2019 and the fifth for a Falcon 9. It will also be the 70th Falcon 9 launch since 2010. Its payload will be no less than 60 satellites that will be inserted into Low Earth Orbit. SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell has stated publicly that this first batch of 60 satellites will drive the schedule for the next set of spacecraft to be launched, depending on how successful they are.
There’s more to the Browncoat nature of this mission than its everyman payload, however. The logistics of the mission also reflect the attitude of a company that aims to misbehave. Not only will the mission utilize a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage, but for the first time, the satellites will also be launched within a previously-flown payload fairing. The Falcon 9 first stage being used is core B1049, which was previously utilized for the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019 as well as the Telstar 18V mission in September 2018. (It will be recovered yet again aboard SpaceX’s Atlantic droneship Of Course I Still Love You during this mission.) The payload fairing for the mission is expected to be the one that SpaceX successfully recovered from the Atlantic Ocean following the most recent Falcon Heavy mission.