SpaceX has announced that it will attempt to launch two Falcon 9 rockets on the same day. The planned launches are slated to occur on August 30. This is the first time that a private company will attempt to launch two rockets from the same location on the same day.
The first launch, from Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral, will deploy new satellites for the Starlink constellation with a target launch time of 10:12 am ET. SpaceX plans to use Starlink to provide satellite Internet service and promises speeds up to 1 Gbps once all 1200 satellites in the constellation are launched. With more than 600 Starlink satellites already in orbit, beta testers have already reported speeds of up to 60 Mbps, which is roughly comparable to the Internet services available in most rural areas. SpaceX expects to be able to compete with “traditional” ground-based Internet service providers once the constellation is complete. If successful, this launch marks the third time that SpaceX will have sent more Starlink satellites into orbit this month.
The second launch, from Pad 40 at the Cape, will launch at 7:18 pm ET and send an Argentinian Earth-observation satellite called SAOCOM 1B into orbit. The rocket’s flight path will take it over Cuba for the first time since 1960, when part of a Thor rocket reportedly fell on Cuban soil and killed a cow. Launch planners in Cape Canaveral have since avoided sending rockets over Cuba due to Cold War tensions and continuing diplomatic tensions with Cuba. According to Cape Canaveral officials, the risk of debris from a failed Falcon 9 launch falling on Cuba is slim in this case and mission planners have notified the Cuban government of the planned launch.
The SAOCOM constellation will provide radar imagery for emergency first responders in Argentina and double as a weather satellite. This constellation will also be able to assist farmers by monitoring soil moisture. SAOCOM 1A was launched in October 2018 and resides in a polar orbit. The launch of SAOCOM 1B had been slated for March, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The delay “forced us to stay a long time in Cape Canaveral, away from our families,” said Raul Kulichevsky, the executive and technical director for Argentina’s National Commission of Space Activities.
Both launches will feature reused first stage rockets as part of SpaceX’s program of bringing down launch costs by reusing hardware. SpaceX plans to recover both first stages for possible relaunch. The weather is likely to be the biggest obstacle for both missions, with a 50% chance of unfavorable weather in the morning and a 40% chance of a weather scrub for the evening launch.