SpaceX launching Falcon 9 rocket on record-tying 20th mission today

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SpaceX will tie its rocket-reuse record tonight (April 27), if all goes according to plan.

A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch the European Commission’s Galileo L12 mission from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida today at 8:34 p.m. EDT (0034 GMT on April 28).

It will be the 20th launch for this Falcon 9’s first stage, according to a SpaceX mission description. That will tie a mark set earlier this month by a different Falcon 9 booster, on a launch of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites.

SpaceX will livestream tonight’s action via its X account; coverage will start about 10 minutes before liftoff.

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Tonight’s launch will add to the Galileo constellation, Europe’s equivalent of the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS). Twenty-eight Galileo satellites have launched to date, all of them atop Russian-built Soyuz rockets or Europe’s Ariane 5.

But the Ariane 5 retired last summer without a ready successor, and Europe cut most of its space ties with Russia following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. So, late last year, the European Space Agency inked a deal with SpaceX to launch up to four Galileo craft over two launches in 2024. Tonight’s mission is presumably the first of those two liftoffs.

The Galileo satellites reside in medium Earth orbit, 14,430 miles (23,222 kilometers) above our planet, which means there will be no rocket landing tonight — a rarity these days for a SpaceX flight.

“Due to the additional performance required to deliver the payload to medium Earth orbit, this mission marks the 20th and final launch for this Falcon 9 first stage booster,” SpaceX wrote in the mission description.

The Falcon 9 stage that already has 20 launches under its belt, by contrast, landed safely after its record flight on April 12. Starlink satellites fly in low Earth orbit, so the booster had enough fuel left over to return to Earth.

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Tonight’s launch is part of a busy weekend for SpaceX; the company also plans to launch yet another Starlink batch on Sunday evening (April 28) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, which is next door to KSC.

And the weekend is part of a very busy year. SpaceX has already launched 41 orbital missions in 2024, 28 of which have been devoted to building out the Starlink megaconstellation.

This post was originally published on Space.com

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