SpaceX will seek to start what promises to be a busy launch year on Thursday evening, when a Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch the TurkSat 5A communications satellite, and the 3.4-ton satellite will be deployed in a geostationary transport orbit.
The launch from Space Launch Complex 40 will take place at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission has a four-hour launch window that opens at 8:28 PM ET (01:28 UTC Friday), with a spare opportunity one day later. The weather forecast Overall is favorable, with a 70 percent chance of “transition” conditions on Thursday.
The mission will use previously relocated devices for both the first stage of the missile, as well as streamlined payload. This will be the fourth flight of this base booster, which previously launched a GPS III satellite for the US Space Force in June 2020 as well as two Starlink missions to SpaceX, most recently on October 24. One previous mission flew.
This launch continues in the direction of SpaceX with the use of Stage 1 rockets with increased experience for commercial missions. In December, for example, the company flew a communications satellite to Sirius on the seventh flight of the first stage.
In an interview, SpaceX President and Operations Director Gwynne Shotwell told Ars that customers are confident of “proven” rockets and that it is usually left to SpaceX to determine the best rocket for each mission. “You’re buying a launch service, and we’ll provide you with the best vehicle that we can offer in the time frame you need to fly,” Shotwell said You tell clients. “We are basically putting control of the bulk in our hands.”
It’s not clear how many Falcon 9 rockets SpaceX will launch in 2021, but barring a disaster, that number will be high. Amid a pandemic in 2020, SpaceX managed to set a record for total launches, with 26 times. The company is likely to outgrow that with numerous assignments for NASA, the Department of Defense and commercial customers as well as its own plans to build the Internet constellation Starlink and provide service to more American homes and businesses.
The Turksat 5A mission will be broadcast online, with the broadcast going on below about 15 minutes before takeoff.