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SpaceX completes two launches in three and a half hours; third launch scrubbed

And the beat goes on: Today SpaceX set a new marker for future launch companies, successfully launching twice from two different launchpads in Florida only three and a half hours apart, and then scrubbing a third launch due to weather on the opposite coast of the U.S. only a few hours after that.

First SpaceX launched a Eutelsat geosynchronous communications satellite, its Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral at 5:52 pm (Eastern). Its first stage completed its twelth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic.

A little more than three and a half hours later, at 9:30 pm (Eastern), SpaceX launched 23 Starlink satellites, its Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from its second launchpad at Cape Canaveral. The first stage completed its eighteenth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic.

Finally, the third launch planned for the day, of another 22 Starlink satelites, was scrubbed at Vandenberg in California at about 10:30 pm (Pacific), or 1:30 am (Eastern) due to weather, despite multiple launch attempts during its two hour launch window. The flight will likely be rescheduled for sometime in the next few days.

No private company has ever attempted such a thing before, and only the Soviet Union might have done it during the height of its launch industry from 1970 to 1988, when it routinely launched between 80 and 100 times per year. Whether it ever did three launches in under nine hours however is not likely.

Even though only two of the three launches took off, what SpaceX tried to do today provides a further illustration of the company’s effort to make rocket launches as routine as airplane travel. It now launches at a pace and reliability that is unprecedented since the dawn of the space age, and was for decades considered by experts impossible. So much for experts. It always pays to ignore them when they tell you something is impossible.

The leaders in the 2024 space race:

32 SpaceX
13 China
4 Rocket Lab
4 Russia

American private enterprise now leads the entire world combined in successful launches 37 to 23, and SpaceX by itself leads everyone one else combined 32 to 28.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • Richard M

    At the NSF forums, ZachF has worked up just what SpaceX and everyone else has done, in terms of Mass to orbit (and beyond) for the first quarter of 2024, and it’s frankly staggering:

    Δv adjusted payload for Q1 2024:

    574,313kga Earth
    478,050kga United States
    474,551kga SpaceX
    63,655kga China
    19,410kga Russia
    7,359kga Japan
    5,234kga India
    549kga New Zealand
    56kga Iran
    0kga European Union
    0kga South Korea
    0kga North Korea
    0kga Israel

    SpaceX was 82.6% of world total for Q1 2024.

  • Rusty Bill

    Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it. – Robert Heinlein

  • Edward

    The trick to doing the impossible is to bypass the impossible part.

    When the expert tells you why it can’t be done, you now know what to not do, and in order to reach the same or a similar goal, all you need is an alternative to the part that is why it cannot be done.

    It is similar to Douglas Adams’s instructions on how to fly: throw yourself at the ground, and miss. It sounds ludicrous — impossible even — but it works. The Wright Brothers did this, specifically by coming up with three-axis control. They eventually missed the ground a vast majority of the time.

    The Golden Gate Bridge was built because they put the towers in different places than where it would be impossible to build, but the suspension between the towers was long. Getting to the Moon only took a creative rendezvous around the Moon rather than the safer one around the Earth. The Panama Canal isn’t a cut through the mountains but a series of locks up to an artificial lake. Faster than light travel really is possible, by tachyons (by definition), so all you have to do is turn yourself into tachyons. Time travel is possible, too, and we do it all the time — just in one direction and at a constant rate. The Titanic was unsinkable, because … well, maybe some things are impossible after all; if it floats, it can sink. It is hard to bypass that part, but is it impossible?

    It was less than ten years ago that ULA was bragging that they had launched twice in six days on different pads. SpaceX has reduced that interval by a factor of forty, more than an order of magnitude. Impossible? Maybe not, but ULA expected everyone to be impressed. Now it is yawningly routine. It is like when I took my first few steps as a child. Everyone cheered and smiled; those were the days! Now I can walk all the way to the drugstore, and no one cares, because it is yawningly routine.

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