As many as four SpaceX Falcon 9 missions and the long-delayed inaugural flight of Ariane 6 make up the roster for this week’s launch schedule. The four SpaceX missions will be split evenly between Starlink and two payloads for other customers.

At least one of the SpaceX missions is likely to be affected by the severe weather currently being experienced on the east coast of the United States.

SpaceX Falcon 9 | Türksat 6A

SpaceX will launch a communications satellite atop a Falcon 9 on Monday, July 8, during a launch window currently set to be between 5:21 PM EDT (21:21 UTC) and 9:21 PM EDT (Tuesday, July 8, 01:21 UTC). The latest weather forecast from the 45th Weather Squadron of the United States Space Force suggests that conditions are likely to be 70 percent against a launch at the stated time, with both cumulus and anvil clouds, as well as surface electric fields, potentially causing a scrub.

Launching from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), Falcon 9 will fly due east to propel the payload into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The booster, B1076  will land on the autonomous droneship Just Read The Instructions, which will be stationed 660 km downrange from the launch site.

The launch of a previous Turksat mission atop a Falcon 9. (Credit: Julia Bergeron for NSF)

This satellite is the first Turkish-built satellite for TürkSat. SpaceX has previously launched TürkSat missions, but these have been built in Canada. TürkSat 6A is said to weigh 4,250 kg and will provide communication support for both civilian and military entities in and around the Antalya Peninsula region.

Booster B1076 has flown 14 previous missions. Its first flight was CRS-26 on Nov. 26 2022, at 19:20 UTC, followed by OneWeb #16, Starlink Group 6-1, Intelsat40e/TEMPO, Starlink Group 6-3, Starlink Group 6-6, Starlink Group 6-14, Starlink Group 6-21, O3b mPOWER 5 & 6, Ovzon-3, Starlink Group 6-40, Eutelat 36D, Starlink Group 6-54, and Starlink Group 6-64.

ESA Ariane 62 | ESA Rideshares Demo

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The European Space Agency (ESA) intends to launch the long-awaited Ariane 6 for the first time on Tuesday, July 9, between 18:00 and 22:00 UTC, from Ensemble de Lancement Ariane 4 (ELA-4) — Ariane Launch Complex 4 — at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.

The various main components of Ariane 6 were built in Europe and shipped to Kourou for assembly and integration in preparation for this maiden flight. The Ariane 6 replaces Ariane 5, which last flew on July 5, 2023, having attained a flight history of 82 consecutive successful launches since April 9, 2003. Before this date, Ariane 5 suffered several failures during its first 14 launches. The new Ariane 6 will fill a large gap in Europe’s orbital capabilities, replacing not only Ariane 5 but also the Soyuz 2.1b.

The Ariane 6 first stage is built by the ArianeGroup for the ESA and is powered by a single Vulcain 2.1 engine, a further development of the first stage engines used on the Ariane 5. Two or four solid rocket boosters (SRB) are added depending on the payload being launched. This initial launch will feature just two SRBs, indicated by the “62” in the Ariane 62 designation.

The second stage has a single Vinci engine, which, like the first stage, uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants, but can be reignited up to four times and is optimized for use in the vacuum of space.

Ariane 64 Pathfinder on the launchpad. (Credit: ESA)

ESA has not attempted to move to reusable boosters with Ariane 6, citing, amongst other reasons, the unviable economics of reuse when demand for launches is of a low volume. For instance, if the booster could be flown and reused once a month, and with the booster being single-engined, the requirement for new engines would be very low, a few at most, making it uneconomic to develop and manufacture such an engine unless there was demand from other booster makers, which seems not to be the case in Europe.

This mission will carry 11 payloads, two of which are dispensers loaded with multiple payloads, totaling 15 in all. The payloads include NASA’s Curie, which is a cubesat using a radio interferometer to study radio burst emissions, and SpaceCase SC-X0, which is a re-entry capsule developed by ArianeGroup. Many of the other payloads are college-built cubesats. This demonstration mission will include several relights of the upper stage’s Vinci engine to place the payloads into different orbits and ultimately deorbit the stage.

The launch of Starlink Group 10-2 from Vandenberg. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX Falcon 9 | Starlink Group 9-3

On Wednesday, July 10, between 7:00 PM PDT and 11:31 PM PDT (Thursday, July 11, 02:00 to 06:31 UTC), a Falcon 9 will launch a batch of Starlink v2 Mini satellites into the Group 9 shell in an orbit inclined at 53 degrees.

Launching from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E), at Vandenberg Space Force Base, the still-to-be-announced booster will land on the autonomous droneship Of Course I Still Love You, some 600 km downrange.

This will be the 131st orbital launch attempt worldwide in 2024. For SpaceX, this will be the 69th Falcon 9 mission of the year.

SpaceX Falcon 9 | Starlink Group 10-4

A further batch of Starlink satellites will launch from SLC-40 at CCSFS in Florida on Saturday, July 13, at 3:58 AM EDT (07:58 UTC). No details have been released regarding either the booster or the droneship for this mission. The pad at SLC-40 is in demand while equipment at LC-39A is converted back to Falcon 9 after having been adapted for the recent Falcon Heavy launch of GOES-U. SLC-40 will soon be needed for the crewed launch of Polaris Dawn, which is now targeting July 31.

SpaceX Falcon 9 | WorldView Legion 3 & 4

Currently expected to launch no earlier than Monday, July 15, from SLC-40 or LC-39A at Cape Canaveral in Florida, Falcon 9 will launch two satellites for the WorldView Legion 3 & 4 mission. Following launch, the unannounced booster is expected to perform a return-to-launch-site landing at LZ-1.

(Lead image: The launch of a Falcon 9 from SLC-40. Credit: Julia Bergeron for NSF)

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