SpaceX test fires Falcon 9 booster following last-minute launch scrub

SpaceX test fires a Falcon 9 booster on July 15, 2023 after an aborted countdown the day before. Image: Spaceflight Now.

SpaceX test fired a Falcon 9 on pad 40 at Cape Canaveral early Saturday to clear the booster for its 16th flight. A launch attempt early Friday was aborted in the final minute of the countdown. SpaceX did not disclose the reason for the scrub.

SpaceX is pushing the envelope for the second time this week by attempting to fly a Falcon 9 rocket for the 16th time. On Sunday night another booster lifted off from the same launch pad becoming the first Falcon 9 rocket to make a 16th flight. Previously the Falcon 9 first-stage had been certified for use up to 15 times.

During the test the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin engines ignited at 12:50 a.m. EDT (0450 UTC) and fired for about ten seconds while the rocket was held down on the launch pad. If no significant problems are detected, SpaceX will make another attempt to launch the rocket on Saturday night at 11:50 p.m. EDT (0350 UTC).

The Falcon 9 first stage booster, tail number 1060, previously launched GPS III-3, Turksat 5A, Transporter-2, Intelsat G-33/G-34, Transporter-6, and 10 Starlink missions. It will be only the second booster to have flown 16 times, following close on the heels of Booster 1058’s launch of 22 second-generation Starlink satellites.

This mission, designated Starlink 5-15 will loft the last 54 older-generation Starlink V1.5 satellites. Earlier this year SpaceX started placing a new generation of Starlink satellites in orbit, known as Starlink V2 Minis, which are larger and offer four times the broadband capacity of the older-design satellites.

The Starlink network provides high-speed, low-latency connectivity to customers around the world. SpaceX says each Starlink launch adds more than a terabit per second of capacity to the constellation.

SpaceX currently has 4397 functioning Starlink satellites in space, according to a tabulation by Jonathan McDowell, an expert tracker of spaceflight activity and an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The first-stage booster will land on the drone ship ‘A Short Fall of Gravitas’ in the Atlantic Ocean about eight and a half minutes after launch. The 54 Starlink satellites will be deployed just over an hour after launch.