10 Iridium communications satellites shook atop a Falcon 9 rocket as it climbed into the skies above southern California in mid-January. The mission was a huge mental win for SpaceX. Four months before, one of their rockets exploded right before the pre-launch static fire test.
The January launch included the first-stage landing and ended with the successful deployment of its payload.
Nearly five months after SpaceX triumphantly returned to the skies, the same first-stage rocket will head back up once more.
There’s no rest for the folks at SpaceX as they gear up for their second launch in as many weeks. On June 17, the BulgariaSat-1 will ride the same first-stage Falcon 9 that lifted the 10 Iridium satellites back in January.
While the landing pad was still cooling off from the first stage landing on June 7, SpaceX personnel were rolling the flight-proven booster into the hangar at 39A.
Hours after CRS-11 lifted off, this flight-proven booster rolled into the hangar at 39A; targeting June 17 launch of BulgariaSat-1. pic.twitter.com/ZcqRQeJPx6
Static fire of the Falcon 9 rocket is set for June 13. Launch will be four days later on June 17. A two-hour launch window opens at 2:10 pm ET. As always, SpaceX will provide live coverage of the launch.
The first stage will come back to Earth for a second landing. But SpaceX isn’t aiming for solid ground this go around. Because BulgariaSat-1 is aiming for a geostationary orbit, SpaceX will attempt the rocket’s second landing on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean.
Fun fact: If successful, this first stage will be the first to land on both of SpaceX’s drone ships.
That also means we probably won’t get stunning footage of the first stage flight back home like this.
SpaceX’s launch schedule remains full
Less than ten days after the BulgariaSat-1 mission, SpaceX will head back out west to Vandenberg Air Force Base to launch the Iridium NEXT Mission 2 (on June 25). Six days later (July 1), the company is back at Kennedy Space Center to launch the Intelsat 35e.
We’ll see how the two-day delay on the CRS-11 mission effects Iridium or Intelsat launches.
SpaceX to launch U.S. Air Force’s secret X-37B space plane
SpaceX scored another big contract for the upcoming X-37B space plane launch. It’s the first U.S. Air Force mission for SpaceX and shows the growing confidence the U.S. government has in the private space company.
SpaceX is making all of these historical launches seem routine. It feels like the launch pad failure from September was ages ago. The company shows it can bounce back and deliver vital payloads into Earth orbit while at the same time leading the charge for reusable rockets and vehicles.
I’ll keep this post updated if the launch date for the BulgariaSat-1 changes.