Rocket-watchers are in for a treat this weekend, with three takeoffs taking place from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. The occasion is all the more auspicious as it is the first time the Florida spaceport has seen many launches in the same week in almost 20 years.
On Saturday at 2.04am ET (7.04am BST), United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy will take a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite into geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles above our planet.
Weather is 50 percent favourable for liftoff of Starlink and 40 percent for SAOCOM
Then, on Sunday, the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX will launch two Falcon 9 rockets.
One SpaceX rocket is blasting 60 more Starlink internet satellites into low-Earth orbit.
And another is ferrying a SAOCOMB 1B satellite for Argentina’s space program.
The last time a trio of rockets took off from Cape Canaveral in the same week was in 2001.
SpaceX launch LIVE stream: The Elon Musk-owned SpaceX will launch two Falcon 9 rockets on Sunday
SpaceX launch LIVE stream: Watch a Falcon 9 carry Starlink satellites into orbit
How to watch the SpaceX launch live online:
On Sunday, SpaceX has given a 50 percent chance of favourable weather during launch.
Primary concerns involve the continuing fallout from Hurricane Laura could derail the mission.
If the mission gets scrubbed, a backup window should open on early next week.
SpaceX tweeted: “Pending Range availability, targeting back-to-back Falcon 9 launches from Florida on Sunday, August 30.
SpaceX launch: The launch will mark SpaceX’s 101st mission
“Another flight of Starlink from LC-39A at 10.12am EDT followed by the SAOCOM 1B mission from SLC-40 at 7.18pm EDT.
“Weather is 50 percent favourable for liftoff of Starlink and 40 percent for SAOCOM.”
Weather permitting, you will be able to watch the launch in the embedded video player above.
SpaceX broadcasts all of its launches live on YouTube and its website.
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SpaceX’s streams typically kick off about 15 minutes before liftoff.
The last time this many crafts launched in a single weekend was when a Titan 4 rocket, a Delta 2 launcher and a NASA Space Shuttle all took off from different pads.
General Doug Schiess, commander of the 45th Space Wing, said this is a ‘historic week’ for the spaceport.
The Delta IV Heavy is the largest launcher in United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) fleet, consisting of three rocket cores strapped together.
SpaceX launch: The Falcon 9 booster was used on numerous previous missions
The mission was initially scheduled earlier this week, but was delayed it for a day ‘due to customer request,’ according to ULA.
A new launch was readied for Thursday morning but this was again delayed for engineers to fix an issue with the rocket’s nose cone heater.
But although this was rapidly resolved, a separate problem was detected with a ‘critical’ ground pneumatics control system that could not be resolved during the four-hour launch window.
ULA said in a statement: “Additional time is needed for the team to validate the appropriate path forward with the ground pneumatics control system.”
After initially considering an attempt on Friday, ULA said it was delaying blastoff until today due to US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predicting an 80 percent chance of good weather.
Its cargo, the NROL-44 satellite, is believed to be another in a series of Advanced Orion listening stations that intercept telephone calls and other communications.
The NRO would not confirm, only saying it supports the agency’s overall mission “to provide intelligence data to the United States’ senior policy makers, the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense.”