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SpaceX ending the year with a trio of launches in just four days

SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft, seen atop a Falcon 9 rocket, at the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 24, 2021, in preparation for the company’s 23rd commercial resupply services mission. Photo: SpaceX

Private rocket company SpaceX plans to cap off a busy year with three launches in the time space of about four days, utilizing launch facilities on the U.S. east and west coast.

If SpaceX pulls it off, it will end the year with 31 Falcon 9 launches, beating a previous annual record of 26.

The first launch attempt is happening at SpaceX’s west coast facility at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The commercial rocket company is sending 52 of its Starlink satellites in orbit to join a constellation of more than 1,000 already in orbit. The launch is scheduled Saturday at 1:24 a.m. PST.

On the east coast, teams are preparing two Falcon 9 rockets for flight. First, SpaceX is set to launch a Turkish communication satellite into orbit Saturday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. A 90-minute launch window opens at 10:48 p.m. ET and weather remains favorable for launch.

Then on Tuesday, SpaceX is set to launch 6,500 pounds of crew supplies and science equipment to the International Space Station packed inside the company’s Cargo Dragon capsule. SpaceX is targeting a launch from Kennedy Space Center at 5:06 a.m. ET.

The experiments on board include a protein crystal growth study that could aid in cancer research and a handheld bio printer that could be used to print tissue directly onto wounds. Once launched, the capsule will take about a day to reach the ISS. The spacecraft will remained docked at the station for about a month before splashing down off the coast of Florida.

The trio of missions would end a busy year for SpaceX, which included two NASA astronaut missions and an orbital space tourism mission that took billionaire Jared Isaacman and three others on a three-day trip to low-Earth orbit and back.

In 2021, the company was also awarded a contract from NASA to build the next lunar lander that will take U.S. astronauts to the surface of the moon in the mid 2020s. Work on that vehicle called Starship is taking place in Boca Chica, Texas and the SpaceX says it could launch an orbital demonstration mission of the spacecraft early next year.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was named TIME’s person of the year. That same week, a former SpaceX engineer alleged harassment and sexism during her time at the company.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »