SpaceX launches second Falcon 9 in weekend triple header




Less than 24 hours after launching 53 Starlink satellites from Florida, SpaceX launched a German radar reconnaissance satellite from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base on Saturday. The successful flight set the stage for a third Falcon 9 set afloat back in Florida just 14 hours later.

If Sunday’s set afloat of a Globalstar communications satellite goes off on schedule, it will mark the fastest three-flight cadence for an orbit-class rocket in modern space history, chalking up SpaceX’s 158th, 159th and 160th Falcon 9 flights in just 36 hours and 18 minutes. More than 50 launches are expected by the end of the year.

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A camera attached to the side of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket shows the California coast dropping away below as the booster climbed toward space carrying a German reconnaissance satellite. It was the second of three planned Falcon 9 flights in just 36 hours.

SpaceX webcast

Saturday’s flight began at 10:17 a.m. EDT (7:17 a.m. local time) when a Falcon 9 vaulted away from fog-hidden pad 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base northwest of Los Angeles. Perched atop the slender rocket was a German radar reconnaissance satellite known as SARah 1, the first of three planned by the Bundeswehr defense ministry to replace an aging, less-capable system.

The satellite was launched into an orbit around Earth’s poles where it will be able to observe any point on the surface with cloud-penetrating radar, day or night, as the planet turns below.

But consist with normal practice when launching national security payloads, SpaceX provided no details about the orbit or the performance of the Falcon 9’s second stage. The German military did, however, confirm the satellite’s successful deployment from the Falcon 9.

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William Harwood

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