Once again, Elon Musk excited space enthusiasts everywhere with his announcement on Twitter that, if the schedule holds, there may be two Falcon 9 launches within 48 hours this weekend. This would kick off a two-week period where SpaceX could launch three separate rockets. Although Elon Musk and SpaceX are making leaps and bounds in the realm of aerospace, it is important to remember that they are standing on the shoulders of a long history of spaceflight and ingenuity. The first launch will take place at Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A, which has been the host of many historical launches. In the early 1960s, the complex was constructed specifically to launch
NASA’s new, moon-bound Saturn V rockets. On November 9, 1967, NASA launched Apollo 4, their first unmanned test flight of the Saturn V, debuting Launch Pad 39A for the first time. A little over a year later, NASA launched Apollo 8 off of 39A, sending astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and Williams Anders around the moon. This marked the first successful crewed spacecraft to orbit the moon and return safely. Then, 39A made history on July 16, 1969 by launching Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins on Apollo 11 for the very first lunar landing.
Once the Apollo program was over, 39A shifted its focus and became a main departure point for space shuttles. From 1967 to 2011, 39A hosted 94 launches (12 Saturn V Rockets and 82 space shuttles), the final launch being space shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011. After a well-deserved rest, 39A was leased by SpaceX on April 14, 2014. Now, SpaceX is getting ready for their eighth flight of the year with the launching of the Falcon 9 rocket from 39A to deliver BulgariaSat-1 (Friday, June 23). The satellite will be used for commercial communications and is the first of its kind in Bulgaria’s history. The mission may sound cut and dry, but this will mark the second time SpaceX will demonstrate its ability to reuse launch-rocket hardware, as well as the 12th time it will land Falcon 9 rocket boosters. Falcon 9’s first stage will attempt to land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
This weekend marks the beginning of the two-week period in which SpaceX could potentially launch three separate rockets, the second being on Sunday, June 25 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base and the third on Saturday, July 1 from 39A. If successful, SpaceX would launch three rockets in a little over a week – a very impressive feat and a launch cadence that has not been seen in some time. This kind of launch expediency, along with the ability to land and reuse rocket hardware, brings a lot of new potential to aerospace exploration. The launch window for this Friday will start at 2:10pm ET. In order to follow each launch, you can watch the webcast here.
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