Following an extremely eventful week in Spaceflight, this coming week returns to “business as usual.” Two SpaceX Starlink missions, one each from Vandenberg and Florida, and a Falcon 9 launching a customer satellite make up the launches for the week.

SpaceX is preparing Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center for the upcoming Falcon Heavy launch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) GOES-U satellite on June 25. Due to this, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) is taking the full brunt of launches from the east coast and, in doing so, is seeing remarkable turnaround times for every launch.

Having started with Starlink Group 8-5 on June 5, followed by Starlink Group 10-1 on June 8, SpaceX intends to launch Starlink Group 10-2 on June 12 and Astra 1P/SES-24 on June 17, bringing the total launch count to four launches in 12 days, all from the same pad, giving an average turnaround time of three days between launches. To put this into perspective, the current record for the fastest turnaround time for any of SpaceX’s three pads is two days and twenty hours. SpaceX is also growing the launch count on the west coast, with another Starlink launching from Vandenberg with the first batch of Group 9 satellites.

There are currently just three launches scheduled for this week, but this figure doesn’t represent the extreme activity across the global launch market this year.

SpaceX Falcon 9 | Starlink Group 10-2

SpaceX will continue to add Starlink v2 Mini satellites to the Starlink constellation as they launch the second batch of Group 10 satellites to orbit, during a launch window that stretches between 5:08 PM and 9:36 PM EDT on June 12 (21:08 on June 12 and 01:36 UTC on June 13).

Launching on a northeasterly trajectory to an orbit inclined 53 degrees, the booster will land on one of SpaceX’s two autonomous droneships approximately 600 km downrange. Neither the booster nor the support vessels are known at this time.

Another beautiful morning in Florida as Falcon 9 returns from Starlink 8-5 atop JRTI droneship! https://t.co/icguJj6CpG pic.twitter.com/pxMksT6oci

— Gav Cornwell (@SpaceOffshore) June 7, 2024

SpaceX Falcon 9 | Starlink Group 9-1

While many were expecting another Starlink Group 8 launch, Group 9-1 appeared in the launch hazard notices as the next mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base on June 13, with launch scheduled for approximately 8:00 PM PDT  (03:00 UTC on June 13). SpaceX does not generally provide specific information about the Starlink groups, so the reason for the unexpected switch to the Group 9 satellites is unknown.

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The payload of Starlink v2 Mini satellites will be launched to a 286 by 295 km orbit inclined 53 degrees, following a southeasterly trajectory out of California. The unknown booster will land on the autonomous droneship Just Read The Instructions, stationed 642 km downrange.

SpaceX Falcon 9 | SES-24/Astra 1P

Currently set to launch no earlier than June 15, a SpaceX Falcon 9 will loft the latest television satellite for SES — a leading provider of broadcast TV across Europe — from SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The SES-24/Astra 1P satellite will be launched into a geostationary orbit at 19.2 degrees east and will be one of the most powerful of its kind. The undeclared Falcon 9 booster is expected to land on one of SpaceX’s autonomous drone ships.

SES-24 was built in Europe by Thales Alenia Space, in a partnership between Thales and Leonardo. The satellite is based on the successful Spacebus NEO satellite bus, produced at the Cannes Mandelieu Space Center, previously part of Alcatel Alenia Space, in France. This will be the 94th Spacebus to be launched since the first — Arabsat-1A — in 1985.

Happy to have welcomed SES & its customers in #Cannes. They came to see the @Thales_Alenia_S-built ASTRA 1P communications satellite that will strengthen @SES_Satellites‘ prime TV neighborhood at 19.2 degrees East by providing wide-beam coverage across including & pic.twitter.com/TPC1DOd1hL

— Thales Alenia Space (@Thales_Alenia_S) February 7, 2024

This NEO Spacebus derivative is the latest design from Thales Alenia. SES-24 uses the ‘all-electric’ option, which includes electrically powered thrusters. The Ku-band satellite is one of two being built under the current contract. SES-24 is a classic wide-beam satellite with 80 transponders, giving it the ability to broadcast up to 500 HDTV channels. The second satellite, SES-25/Astra 1Q, will be a complementary Ku-band satellite, able to provide both wide and tight-beam services as required.

This will be the first Astra satellite to be launched by SpaceX, as previous launches were performed by Proton and Ariane boosters. At seven meters tall and five tonnes weight,  SES-24 is a large payload, but well within Falcon 9’s capability of 8.3 tonnes. Once deployed in orbit, the spacecraft’s solar arrays will extend out to 45 m wide, providing 20 kW of power and making it “one of the most powerful satellites in geosynchronous orbit,” according to Florent Bire, who served as the assembly, integration, and test manager for Astra 1P at Thales Alenia Space.

(Lead image: Streak shot of Falcon 9 launching Starlink satellites Credit: Julia Bergeron for NSF)

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