SpaceX drones head out to sea for back-to-back Falcon 9 launches
For the third time in their history, SpaceX’s two east coast drones have left Port Canaveral to take over two Falcon 9 launches and landings scheduled days apart.
Originally slated for launch on June 1-3, SpaceX’s SiriusXM SXM-8 and CRS-22 Cargo Dragon missions recently switched positions after unknown issues delayed SiriusXM’s newest geostationary radio satellite. SpaceX’s second upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft is now expected to launch more than 3,300 kg (7,300 lbs) of cargo – including new solar panels – to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than 1:29 p.m. (NET) EDT (5:29 PM UTC) Thursday, June 3.
If all goes according to plan, another Falcon 9 rocket will then launch SiriusXM’s seven ton (~ 15,500 lb) SXM-8 communications satellite at 12:26 a.m. EDT (04:26 UTC) on Sunday, June 6.
The SpaceX Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) and Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) drones left Port Canaveral four days apart on May 29 and June 2 for back-to-back launches and booster pickups. CRS-22 and SXM-8 will be the fourth time that two SpaceX drones will have to leave Port Canaveral within four days of each other.
After a nine month journey of channel crossing, inspections and upgrades, the JRTI drone joined OCISLY in Florida and sustained its first East Coast recovery in June 2020. It took SpaceX about six months. to find its rhythm, but the company used both. drones for near-simultaneous launches and landings for the first time in January 2021, recovering two Falcon 9 boosters at sea in just over four days.
The same process was repeated in March when SpaceX launched two batches of 60 Starlink satellites in the span of 74 hours, recovering both boosters with no problem. This particular success also marked the first time that two recovered Falcon 9 boosters stood simultaneously vertically in Port Canaveral. Barring launch delays or an extremely fast turnaround time for the CRS-22 B1067, CRS-22, and SXM-8 boosters could easily precipitate the second appearance of two vertical SpaceX rockets in port.
Beyond the spectacle of simultaneous recoveries and their demonstration of the aggressiveness with which SpaceX pursues its ambitious launch rate targets in 2021, CRS-22 and SXM-8 will also set a new time record between two SpaceX launches since East Coast. If they fly on time, the missions will be launched within 59 hours – two and a half days – apart, beating the previous record of 74 hours by 25%.