Update: Despite terrible weather, SpaceX and NASA are on track to attempt to launch Cargo Dragon’s CRS-24 space station resupply mission – also the 31st and final Falcon 9 launch in 2021. Tune in below around 4:45 a.m. EDT (9:45 a.m. UTC) on December 21 to watch the mission live.
SpaceX deployed a rare new Falcon 9 booster for the company’s last launch in 2021, highlighting how ubiquitous reuse of the company’s rockets has become.
The mission – CRS-24, Cargo Dragon 2’s fourth International Space Station (ISS) refueling race – will be SpaceX’s 31st Falcon 9 launch of the year, handily beating the record of 26 launches set by the company in 2020. However, CRS-24 will be This is only the second time this year that SpaceX has launched a (new) unmanned Falcon booster, meaning the other 29 missions (~ 94%) have relied on it. success on proven rockets in flight.
In other words, in less than five years, SpaceX has gone from the very first Falcon 9 reuse (SES-10 – March 2017) to almost 30 launches in a year without a single new booster. The only other time SpaceX flew a new booster this year was the CRS-22, which successfully launched the Falcon 9 B1067 and the new Cargo Dragon 2 C209 capsule in June.
Six months later, the Falcon 9 B1069 is expected to make its debut by launching the Cargo Dragon 2 C209 capsule on its second mission to the ISS. Carrying around 3 tons (~ 6,500 lbs) of consumables, station parts, and science experiments, Dragon is expected to take off from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Pad 39A no earlier than 5:06 a.m. EDT (10:06 a.m. UTC) ). ) Tuesday, December 21. However, the weather looks decidedly unfavorable and the CRS-24 currently has a 70% chance of being cleaned up by poor conditions at Cape Canaveral and downstream into the Atlantic Ocean. The weather forecast for a save window on December 22 currently calls for a much better 60% chance of favorable conditions.
Either way, when CRS-24 launches, it will mark a number of milestones and set several new records for SpaceX. Beyond consolidating SpaceX’s 31 record launches this year, CRS-24 will also be Falcon’s third launch in just 69 hours – less than three days. Prior to that, SpaceX’s record for three launches was set in November 2020 when three Falcon 9 rockets launched Crew-1, Sentinel 6A, and Starlink V1 L15 just over nine days (~ 217 hours) apart. If SpaceX can find a hole in the semi-figurative clouds and launch on December 21, it will break that record by more than a factor of three.
Additionally, including Starlink 4-3 and NASA’s IXPE mission, the CRS-24 will be SpaceX’s fifth orbital launch in December 2021 – the first time the company has launched more than four times in a month. Even more impressive, if the CRS-24 takes off before Thursday, December 23, it will actually be SpaceX’s fifth launch in less than three weeks. If it wasn’t for December, SpaceX most likely could have made a sixth launch in the last few days of the year. Instead, most SpaceXers will get a much needed time off before the start of 2022.
Incredibly, even excluding the Starlink missions, which accounted for more than half of SpaceX’s launches in 2021, the company has at least 39 Falcon commercial launches are tentatively slated for 2022. If he wants to continue Starlink’s regular launches in addition to his unprecedented manifesto, it won’t be long before SpaceX’s next five months of launch.