SpaceX is set to launch the first of its planned back-to-back Falcon 9 Starlink missions — now spaceflight

A Falcon 9 rocket arrives at Launch Pad 39A on Sunday, January 28, 2024, ahead of a scheduled Starlink delivery mission. Image: Space travel now.

Update 5:34 pm: SpaceX has pushed back the planned launch time of the Starlink 6-38 mission.

SpaceX is gearing up for a busy week to close out January. Two Starlink flights are set to launch as the company prepares to launch the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station for the first time.

First to bat is the Starlink 6-38 mission, which will send 23 more satellites into low-Earth orbit. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket supporting the mission is set for Sunday, January 28 at 8:10 PM EST (0110 UTC).

Spaceflight Now will broadcast live approximately one hour prior to liftoff.

SpaceX calls Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center to launch the mission. It was the 74th launch of a Falcon rocket from this pad (including nine Falcon Heavy rockets) and the 167th launch overall.

The first stage booster supporting the mission, tail number B1062, will make its 18th flight and last flew in late November. It has previously supported two crewed launches, a pair of GPS satellites and 10 Starlink launches to date.

About 8.5 minutes later, B1062 will land on the drone ship, 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'. This was the 58th booster landing on this ship and the 267th overall landing of a Falcon 9 first stage booster.

Assuming a successful launch on Sunday, these would be the most current stats:

  • 18th launch and landing of B1062
  • 74th SpaceX launch from LC-39A
  • 167th orbital launch from LC-39A
  • 293rd Falcon 9 launched
  • 58th Landing in ASOG
  • 267th Falcon 9 booster landing
  • 6th orbital launch from Florida in 2024
  • 8th SpaceX launch in 2024
  • 19th orbital launch in 2024
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Assuming a successful launch of the Starlink 6-38 mission Sunday evening, another Falcon 9 flight will follow within four hours: Starlink 7-12 from the Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The mission is scheduled to liftoff from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at 6:16 pm PST (9:16 pm EST, 0216 UTC). This would add 22 more Starlings to the constellation in Leo.

While both missions are underway, SpaceX, NASA and Northrop Grumman are working on final preparations for the launch of NG-20, the latest cargo resupply mission to the ISS.

A Cygnus spacecraft is attached to the Falcon 9 payload fairing for the first time. Image: SpaceX

This is the first time SpaceX has launched a Cygnus spacecraft. This is the first of three such planned missions as Northrop Grumman and Firefly Aerospace continue to work on a joint rocket known as Antares 330.

The cargo plane will launch from SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Amidst all this, SpaceX continues to support the private astronaut Ax-3, which is halfway through its two-week stint on the ISS. Four astronauts, led by Michael López-Alegria, will board their Dragon spacecraft and return to Earth next weekend, weather permitting.

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