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In lieu of commercial missions ready to fly, SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets are currently scheduled to launch at least five batches of Starlink satellites in a row.
The streak won’t break the company’s record of seven back-to-back Starlink launches but it does highlight one beneficial side-effect of SpaceX’s relentless pursuit of vertical integration – the ability to create its own launch demand. Just shy of two full months into 2022, SpaceX has launched seven times – three for paying customers and four for Starlink. Before February is over, the company is scheduled to launch at least one more batch of Starlink satellites for a total of eight launches in the first two months of the year.
Up next, SpaceX is scheduled to launch Starlink 4-11 out of its California-based Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB) SLC-4E facilities no earlier than (NET) 9:08 am PST (17:08 UTC), Friday, February 25th. Drone ship Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) departed the Port of Long Beach for the mission on February 22nd and is headed around 640 kilometers (~400 mi) southeast to a booster landing area just off the coast of Baja California. Falcon 9 booster B1063 is scheduled to support the mission – its fourth launch overall and first since it helped launch NASA’s DART asteroid redirection spacecraft into interplanetary space in November 2021.
Up next, another Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch Starlink 4-9 as early as “mid-morning” EST on Thursday, March 3rd from its Kennedy Space Center LC-39A pad. Booster B1060 is reportedly scheduled to support the mission and will become the third SpaceX first stage to singlehandedly support eleven orbital-class launches if it does. Starlink 4-9 could be the pad’s last mission for a few weeks to give SpaceX enough time to convert its rocket transporter/erector for the March 30th launch of Axiom-1, which will send four private astronauts to the International Space Station.
Finally, SpaceX plans to launch Starlink 4-10 NET Tuesday, March 8th from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) Launch Complex 40 (LC-40). It’s likely that SpaceX will launch at least one more Starlink mission next month but a firm date has yet to be settled on. All told, including Starlink 4-7 (February 3rd) and Starlink 4-8 (February 21st), SpaceX is on track to launch at least five Starlink missions in a row, hopefully placing around 240 satellites (~200 after losing most of Starlink 4-7 to a “geomagnetic storm”) in orbit in less than five weeks.
More a sign of a lack of commercial missions ready for flight than anything else, SpaceX’s record for uninterrupted Starlink missions – set from February to April 2021 – is seven launches. Technically, SpaceX actually managed 12 Starlink launches between February and March, with just one commercial mission – Crew-2 – separating the lot. Barring surprises, SpaceX is thankfully unlikely to be hit by a similar streak in 2022.
There’s a chance that SpaceX will launch a batch of three O3B mPower satellites for SES next month. At a minimum, SpaceX is scheduled to launch a trio of Dragon missions over the next two or so months, beginning with Ax-1 NET March 30th. Another Crew Dragon is scheduled to launch Crew-4 for NASA on April 15th, followed by Cargo Dragon 2’s CRS-25 space station resupply mission as early as May 1st. Excluding Starlink missions and on top of the three commercial launches SpaceX has already completed this year, there are as many as 38 more commercial Falcon launches tentatively scheduled before the end of 2022.