SpaceX launches pair of European navigation satellites

On Saturday, May 27th, the Falcon 9 successfully launched to deploy two European global navigation satellites into the designated orbit. The spacecraft lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 8:34 p.m. ET, marking the 12th launch of the Galileo constellation. Originally planned for a Russian Soyuz rocket launch from Kourou, French Guiana, the mission was rescheduled due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and later shifted to a potential launch with the European Space Agency’s Ariane 6 rocket.

However, developmental delays with the Ariane 6 led to the decision to proceed with the Falcon 9 as the sole suitable launcher. Although the European Space Agency specifically referred to the Falcon 9 as the “launcher,” it did not mention SpaceX or its Florida launch site, possibly due to embarrassment over the delays of their new rocket. The Falcon 9 utilized for this mission was Booster 1060, which completed its 20th and final flight and was unable to land on a droneship due to the additional performance required to place the satellites in medium Earth orbit. The booster had been involved in various significant missions, such as supporting Starlink missions, sending a lunar lander to the Moon, and launching numerous spacecraft as part of the Rideshare program.

It also played a key role in sending over 228 metric tons to orbit and marked the first intentional expendable use of a Falcon 9 after 146 missions, showcasing its remarkable performance over the years. SpaceX announced its goal of certifying the Falcon 9 and fairings for up to 40 flights, further emphasizing its leadership in rocket reusability. The future longevity of the Falcon 9 is a subject of discussion, with speculation ranging from the possibility of it reaching 40 flights to the potential need for replacements around 30 flights. This raises the question of whether the Falcon 9 can maintain its impressive performance over an extended period of use.

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