SpaceX has just shown us what every day in spaceflight can be like

Zoom in / A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted into orbit Sunday night from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying a four-person crew to the International Space Station.

Between Sunday night and Monday night, SpaceX teams in Texas, Florida and California oversaw three Falcon 9 rocket launches and completed full training ahead of the next flight of the company's giant Starship launch vehicle.

It was a remarkable sequence of events, even for SpaceX, which has launched a mission an average of once every three days since the beginning of the year. We've reported on this before, but it's worth emphasizing that no launch provider, commercial or government, has ever worked at this pace.

SpaceX previously had rockets on all four active launch pads. But what SpaceX accomplished over a 24-hour period was noteworthy. Engineers were inside at least four control centers actively supervising spacecraft and rocket operations simultaneously.

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On Sunday night at the Starbase facility in South Texas, teams loaded more than 10 million pounds of methane and liquid oxygen fuel into the roughly 400-foot-tall (121-meter) Starship rocket, which is scheduled to blast off as soon as this month on the moon's surface. The third full-scale test flight of SpaceX's next-generation launcher.

This will likely be the last major test before SpaceX launches the third Starship test flight. The fully stacked rocket countdown rehearsal ended as planned at T-minus 10 seconds, before the booster's Raptor engines ignited; SpaceX then drained the propellant from the vehicle. SpaceX previously test-fired the Super Heavy rocket and the Starship upper stage separately.

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The timeline for the next Starship launch depends on approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, which is reviewing SpaceX's procedures to correct malfunctions that occurred on the second Starship test flight in November. Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it had closed its investigation into the second Starship test flight, which was largely successful in demonstrating significant progress in SpaceX's privately funded rocket program. But the test flight ended with explosions in the Starship's Super Heavy booster and upper stage, prompting the FAA to launch an investigation.

On the next Starship flight, SpaceX wants to do some early testing of the in-space refueling technology it will need for later Starship flights, such as missions to the moon for NASA.

A SpaceX Super Heavy rocket and a Starship rocket undergo countdown training Sunday night in south Texas.
Zoom in / A SpaceX Super Heavy rocket and a Starship rocket undergo countdown training Sunday night in south Texas.

At the same time that the SpaceX team in Texas ran the Starship countdown rehearsal, another group of engineers and technicians on the Space Coast in Florida ran the countdown to the Falcon 9 launch on Sunday night. Three NASA astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are strapped into their seats aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft Strive A spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket then waited for liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 10:53 p.m. EDT Sunday (03:53 UTC Monday).

The Falcon 9 launch for NASA's Crew-8 mission Sunday night was the first of three Falcon 9 launches within the next 20 hours. Next in line was a launch at 5:05 p.m. EDT (2205 UTC) Monday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California with 53 small payloads on SpaceX's 10th tanker ridesharing mission. Customer payloads at this Falcon 9 launch included MethaneSAT, an $88 million satellite funded primarily through charitable donations to monitor greenhouse gas methane missions around the world.

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Less than two hours later, at 6:56 PM EDT (2356 UTC), a Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from SpaceX's busiest launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. This mission delivered an additional 23 Starlink broadband satellites to orbit for SpaceX's commercial Internet network. This was the shortest separation time yet between two SpaceX launches, at 1 hour and 51 minutes.

All three Falcon 9 launches ended with landing of the rocket's first-stage boosters.

A view of 53 small satellite payloads before they are encapsulated in the payload front of a Falcon 9 rocket, before liftoff on the Transporter 10 ridesharing mission.
Zoom in / A view of 53 small satellite payloads before they are encapsulated in the payload front of a Falcon 9 rocket, before liftoff on the Transporter 10 ridesharing mission.

While controllers at Starbase, Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg oversaw the three Falcon 9 launches, SpaceX engineers at the company's headquarters near Los Angeles tracked the performance and progress of the Crew Dragon. Strive The spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station, where it docked early Tuesday. Next week, another SpaceX capsule, Crew Dragon, will be launched to bear, It will leave the station to bring a different crew of four to Earth.

SpaceX, which now has more than 13,000 employees, achieved a similarly fast launch cadence in mid-February by launching three Falcon 9s in about 23 hours, but this time it included the added complexity of powering a Dragon crew capsule on its way to space. The International Space Station, plus a spacecraft countdown in Texas. While all this was happening, a group of ground controllers were also monitoring the health of the Dragon spacecraft currently docked at the space station.

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