SpaceX is scheduled to attempt Falcon 9’s next East Coast Starlink launch and a record-breaking Starship static fire less than eight hours apart on Friday, November 12th.
Barring delays or operational constraints, both of which are fairly likely, that Starship static fire and Starlink launch could technically happen just an hour or two apart. After nearly two weeks of mysterious delays, Starship S20 – SpaceX’s first orbital-class prototype – could easily run into more issues. Nevertheless, after a false-start on November 10th, Ship 20 is currently scheduled to attempt to fire up Raptor engines for the third time between 6am and 2pm CST (12-18:00 UTC).
A thousand miles (~1600 km) east of Boca Chica, Texas, a well-worn Falcon 9 booster is vertical at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral LC-40 facilities for the company’s first dedicated Florida Starlink launch since May 26th. Weather is about 60% favorable for the ‘Starlink 4-1’ mission, which is set to lift off at 7:40am EST (12:40 UTC).
— Mary (@BocaChicaGal) November 12, 2021
Last night's launch of Crew-3 as seen from SLC-40. Falcon 9 completed a static fire test this morning ahead of tomorrow’s targeted launch of 53 Starlink satellites to orbit. Weather is 60% favorable for liftoff pic.twitter.com/GEToXihGJ1
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2021
Unexpectedly, despite the surprise appearance of Falcon 9 booster B1062 – (already attached to a new upper stage) earlier this month, SpaceX has assigned a different rocket to launch Starlink 4-1. Instead of B1062, SpaceX’s first full East Coast batch of laser-linked Starlink V1.5 satellites will be carried into space on Falcon 9 B1058 as part of the booster’s 9th orbital-class launch in less than 18 months. As is now routine, the mission will also launch with two flight-proven fairing halves.
Back in Boca Chica, SpaceX could technically fire up its first orbital Starship prototype less than an hour later. While a test early in the window would be extraordinarily rare, it’s not unprecedented. Generally speaking, from the start of the road closure (no earlier than 6am CST), it takes at least an hour or two to prime pad hardware and load Starship with propellant, meaning that Starship S20’s third static fire is unlikely to occur before 7:30-8am CST (8:30-9am EST).
Depending on what SpaceX goes for, it could arguably also be the most ambitious ground test the company has ever attempted in South Texas. After an oddly long multiweek process, Ship 20 has been outfitted with a full six operational Raptor engines and there’s a real chance that SpaceX intends to fire up all six tomorrow. As of now, SpaceX has never fired more than three Raptor engines on a Starship or Super Heavy prototype, making a six-engine test at least twice as stressful as any test prior for both the pad and rocket. Even at their minimum throttle settings, Starship S20’s six Raptors would likely produce more than 600 tons (1.3M lbf) of thrust, while all six at full thrust (~1100 tons or 2.45M lbf) would briefly make Starship almost 50% more powerful than a Falcon 9 at liftoff.
As usual, there will be no official SpaceX webcast for Starship S20’s possible static fire attempt and delays are more likely than not. Unofficial streams from NASASpaceflight and others are the best place to watch.