Upcoming Launches: Rocket Lab’s “We Will Never Desert You” and SpaceX’s Two Starlink Missions

The week of Sept. 18 through Sept. 24 is set to be an exciting one for the aerospace industry, with three orbital launches scheduled to take place in the United States. These launches, all conducted by US-based aerospace companies, highlight the continued growth and innovation in the field.

Rocket Lab, a prominent player in the industry, is set to launch its ninth Electron rocket of 2023 on a mission called “We Will Never Desert You.” This mission, scheduled for Sept. 19, 2023, will deploy Capella Space’s new Acadia satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO). Capella Space, an American space tech company, operates commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery satellites that provide high-resolution imagery of the Earth. The Acadia satellites, with their new features for faster downlink speeds and higher-quality images, will enhance Capella’s ability to deliver top-notch SAR imagery even in challenging weather conditions. Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, known for its unique design, will be responsible for placing the Acadia satellites into orbit.

Meanwhile, SpaceX, another prominent player in the industry, has two Starlink missions lined up for the week. The first, called Starlink Group 6-17, is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2023. This mission aims to add 22 Starlink v2 Mini satellites to the existing constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit. SpaceX has been working diligently to address concerns from the astronomy community regarding the brightness of its satellites. By incorporating dielectric mirrors and dark black paint on the satellite surfaces, SpaceX has significantly reduced the amount of light reflected towards the ground. Furthermore, SpaceX has made these brightness mitigations available to other satellite operators.

The second Starlink mission of the week, named Starlink Group 6-18, is set to launch on Sept. 23, 2023. Another 22 Starlink v2 Mini satellites will be deployed into orbit, further expanding the Starlink constellation. SpaceX continues its efforts to recover and reuse the first stage of its Falcon 9 rockets. After the launch, the first stage will attempt to land on SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship called “A Shortfall of Gravitas.” This mission also marks the use of the recovery vessel named “Doug” for the first time since the Starlink Group 6-10 mission. Both the booster and the fairing halves are expected to be flight-proven, showcasing SpaceX’s commitment to cost-effective spaceflight.

These launches are part of a larger trend in the industry, with a projected record-breaking number of launches expected this year. If the pace continues, there could be over 210 launches by the end of 2023. SpaceX has played a significant role in this growth, accounting for over 40% of the launches so far this year. The upcoming Falcon launches for Starlink Group 6-17 and Starlink Group 6-18 will be the 66th and 67th Falcon flights of 2023, respectively.

To wrap it up, the week of Sept. 18 through Sept. 24 promises to be an exciting one for the aerospace industry. With three launches scheduled from US-based aerospace companies, Rocket Lab and SpaceX, innovation and progress in space exploration continue to soar. These missions highlight the advancements in satellite technology and the efforts to make spaceflight more cost-effective and sustainable. As the industry continues to break records, we can expect even greater achievements in the future.