SpaceX added to Space Coast’s growing number of launches for the year with a Sunday evening liftoff while potentially preparing for another attempt to send its new spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket on an orbital test flight later this week.

A Falcon 9 was launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Station at 4:08 p.m., sending up a pair of satellites for Luxembourg company SES.

This is the third time SpaceX has sent a pair of SES’s O3b mPOWER satellites, which are heading to medium Earth orbit. They are part of SES’s goal to send 11 such satellites to increase connectivity to remote locations.

The “O3b” refers to the “other 3 billion,” that is, the population of the Earth who does not have access to the infrastructure found in more metropolitan areas. The mPOWER satellites are the next generation of an existing constellation of MEO satellites for SES already used by companies such as Princess Cruises.

This was the ninth flight of the first stage booster, which landed downstream in the Atlantic aboard the droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas.

This was the 63rd rocket launch in 2023 on the Space Coast, with SpaceX piloting all but four of them. SpaceX also flew 24 missions from California during the year and has now completed 83 successful orbital launches for the year.

In April, it first attempted to orbit its Starship and Super Heavy from its Starbase site in Boca Chica, Texas, but problems separating the stages before reaching orbital altitude forced SpaceX to cause the rocket to self-destruct over the Gulf of Mexico.

SpaceX is still waiting for final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly, but its second attempt at an orbital test flight is expected to launch Friday, according to the company’s website.

SpaceX will broadcast the test approximately 30 minutes before liftoff.

“As is the case with all development testing, the schedule is dynamic and subject to change,” the company said.

Starship is the replacement rocket for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy and, although it did not reach orbit, it became the most powerful rocket to come off the launch pad with more than 17 million of pounds of thrust at takeoff during the April 20 attempt.

If it succeeds in orbiting on this second attempt, it would surpass the record power generated by NASA’s Space Launch System during its November 2022 launch on the Artemis I mission, which exceeded 8.8. million pounds of thrust.

“There really have been a tremendous number of changes between the last Starship flight and this one, well over 1,000,” Musk said in a June interview. “I think the likelihood of this next flight working, you know, getting into orbit, is much higher than the last one.”

Plans for the attempt still call for Starship to climb between 93 and 155 miles on a journey that will take it two-thirds of the way around the Earth to a crash landing near Hawaii.

The April attempt saw the rocket, using a combined liquid methane and liquid oxygen propellant, pass through what is known as Max Q, the zone where the craft experiences maximum dynamic pressure, and reach speeds going up to 1,340 mph.

If all had gone well, the booster and Starship would have separated and each would have made its own hard water landing, with the booster crashing into the Gulf of Mexico and the Starship into the Pacific Ocean after its flight.

The launch system in Texas, and the one that will ultimately be built at the Kennedy Space Center, is designed so that eventually the Super Heavy booster would return to the 469-foot-tall Launch Integration Tower, often referred to as ” Mechazilla”, with a landing. obtained using two pivoting metal arms called “wands”.

The Starship spacecraft would also perform a vertical landing at its destination, making the combination the industry’s first fully reusable rocket.

NASA has been waiting for SpaceX’s spacecraft because it contracted with Musk’s company to provide a working version for its Artemis program astronauts to use during their descent to the moon’s surface.

This mission is currently planned for the Artemis III flight, no earlier than December 2025, but that would require SpaceX to get its spacecraft operational and successfully complete an uncrewed landing on the moon before NASA lets its astronauts board.

For SpaceX, it is planned to carry out dozens, if not more than 100 operational Starship launches before letting humans board, but it already has at least three commercial human spaceflight missions planned in addition to the Starship mission. NASA.

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