Eutelsat mission marks first of possible triple Falcon 9 launch day for SpaceX – Spaceflight Now

A Falcon 9 rocket stands ready to launch the Eutelsat 36D mission at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on March 30, 2024. Image: Spaceflight Now

SpaceX is aiming for an ambitious launch cadence on Saturday evening with potentially three launches on tap in fewer than five hours. The first two Falcon 9 rockets are set to depart from Florida’s Space Coast with the last mission taking off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

First up to the plate is the Eutelsat 36D mission, which is set to liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 5:52 p.m. EDT (2152 UTC). This is the opening of a launch window that lasts three hours and 52 minutes.

Spaceflight Now will have live coverage beginning about one hour prior to launch.

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, tail number B1076 in the SpaceX fleet, will be making its 12 launch attempt. It previously supported missions like the 26th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-26) Dragon flight to the International Space Station, Intelsat IS-40e and Ovzon-3.

About 8.5 minutes after liftoff, B1076 aims to land on the SpaceX droneship ‘Just Read the Instructions’ in the Atlantic Ocean. This would be the 76th landing on JRTI and the 289th booster landing to date.

The all-electric Eutelsat 36D satellite is prepared for transport to Florida from Toulouse, France. Image: Airbus

The payload for this mission is the Eutelsat 36D satellite, which measures 4m x 5m x 4m or the size of a small truck, according to the satellite’s manufacturer, Airbus. The geostationary telecommunications satellite arrived in Florida on Monday, March 11, onboard Airbus’ new BelugaXL plane, which is based on the A330-200 platform.

The satellite is the 22nd geostationary satellite Airbus built for Eutelsat. It features 70 physical Ku-band transponders and is based on Airbus’ Eurostar Neo satellite bus. Eutelsat said it will succeed the Eutelsat 36B satellite at the 36° East position.

In addition to “delivering over 1,100 TV channels to millions of homes” in the areas of Africa and Eurasia, the satellite “has also been selected by Airbus Defense and Space to carry its latest Ultra High Frequency (UHF) payload to support communications over the EMEA region,” Eutelsat said in a statement.

A rendering of the Eutelsat 36D satellite on orbit at the 36° East position. Graphic: Eutelsat

Following the launch attempt of the Eutelsat 36D mission, SpaceX also hopes to launch two Starlink satellite missions. The first, Starlink 6-45, aims to liftoff at 9:02 p.m. EDT (0102 UTC) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The third Falcon 9 flight of the night would launch from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at 7:30 p.m. PDT (10:30 p.m. EDT (0230 UTC). That mission was originally scheduled to launch Thursday night, but was delayed to Friday and then to Saturday. A major storm system is hitting Southern California and is not expected to clear the area until Sunday so further delays to this mission are possible.

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