Next Spaceflight reports that SpaceX’s next Starlink launch – scheduled as few as five days after the last mission – will see Falcon 9 mark a hugely significant milestone for truly reusable rocketry.
According to Next Spaceflight’s sources, SpaceX has chosen Falcon 9 booster B1051 to launch Starlink-27 – the constellation’s 26th operational mission – as early as Sunday, May 9th. Scheduled eight weeks (56 days) after the same booster’s last orbital-class launch and landing and just five days after SpaceX’s 25th operational Starlink launch, Starlink-27 will be Falcon 9 B1051’s 10th launch.
While seemingly minor in the scope of SpaceX’s unending roster of spaceflight ‘firsts,’ B1051’s Sunday flight will make Falcon 9 the first reusable liquid rocket booster of any kind to complete ten orbital launches. With that tenth launch and (hopeful) landing, SpaceX will cross a largely symbolic – but still significant – milestone that many traditional aerospace companies and direct competitors have used for at least a decade to rationalize resting on their laurels and continuing to design and build expensive, expendable rockets with no serious path to reusability.
For the entirety of SpaceX’s operational life, its only two real competitors have – and continue to be – US conglomerate United Launch Alliance (ULA) and European conglomerate Arianespace. Almost like clockwork, both extremely conservative groups – comprised of numerous traditional, entrenched aerospace and military contractors – have gone through a similar cycle of belittlement and dismissal, denial, goalpost-moving, disbelief, and resignation as SpaceX announced plans for reusability, began real-world attempts, and gradually worked out the kinks.