SpaceX Aims for 100 Flights This Year: Highlights include ISS Resupply and Rideshare Mission

SpaceX is set to make a significant push towards its goal of completing 100 launches by the end of the year. This week, the company has four launches scheduled, each carrying a variety of payloads. Meanwhile, China is also making progress in space exploration with the upcoming launch of its 150th Chang Zheng 3B/E rocket.

The first launch of the week is a Starlink mission by SpaceX. On Tuesday, the company will launch 23 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit (LEO) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. This launch is part of SpaceX’s ongoing efforts to provide high-speed internet access worldwide through its Starlink satellite network. The satellites will be placed in LEO at an altitude of 230 kilometers and will eventually reach their final operational orbit of 530 kilometers.

China’s contribution to space exploration comes in the form of the Chang Zheng 3B/E rocket. This rocket, launching from Xichang Satellite Launch Center, will carry a Zhongxing-6E satellite into geosynchronous orbit above China. The Zhongxing-6E satellite is a communications satellite and is expected to replace the Zhongxing-6B satellite, which was previously used for TV transmissions and shortwave radio jamming.

SpaceX continues its busy week with three more Falcon 9 launches. The first of these launches is the Transporter 9 rideshare mission, scheduled for Wednesday. This mission aims to help smaller satellite companies and class projects access space by offering affordable rideshare options. The Falcon 9 rocket will deploy multiple satellites into sun-synchronous orbit, with a return-to-launch site landing planned.

On the same day, SpaceX will also resupply the International Space Station (ISS) with its Commercial Resupply Mission (CRS) for NASA. This mission, known as CRS SpX-29, will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Cargo Dragon capsule will deliver supplies to the ISS, docking onto the Harmony port after approximately 29 hours in space.

The final launch of the week for SpaceX is the deployment of two O3b mPOWER satellites for SES. These satellites will be launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and will provide satellite telecommunications services. However, there have been some setbacks in the development of these satellites, with electrical issues causing performance downgrades. As a result, additional launches will be required to achieve the desired bandwidth.

Overall, SpaceX’s ambitious launch schedule for this week reflects the company’s dedication to advancing space exploration and satellite technology. With these launches, SpaceX aims to provide global internet access, resupply the ISS, and support satellite telecommunications. China’s contribution to space exploration through the Chang Zheng 3B/E rocket demonstrates its commitment to advancing its satellite capabilities. As we continue to witness these advancements, the future of space exploration looks promising.

[Lead image: Falcon 9 launching Starlink 6-26 from SLC-40 at CCSFS. Credit: Julia Bergeron for NSF]