SpaceX will launch Falcon 9 rockets every two to three weeks from its modified launch pad 39A, which will go into service next week. This new schedule represents the highest launch frequency since SpaceX began launches in 2010.
SpaceX director Gwynne Shotwell explains the launch schedule to Reuters. It comes five months after a Falcon 9 rocket exploded during a static fire test prior to launch at Cape Canaveral. A $200 million Israeli satellite was destroyed and launch pad 40 sustained significant damage. This platform is still being repaired. The problem that caused the explosion turned out to be part of the fuel tanks and should now be resolved.
Since that accident, SpaceX has launched only one rocket. This launch, which took place a few weeks ago, was successful. The company succeeded in putting ten satellites into orbit. According to the company, these are the first ten satellites of at least 70 pieces that SpaceX will orbit for its customer Iridium. The satellites facilitate mobile communication, both in the form of telephone calls and data. Also, the first stage booster had successfully landed on a SpaceX drone ship. This was SpaceX’s seventh successful landing.
SpaceX is working on improving the rocket engines, according to Shotwell. The company is trying to increase the performance of the engines and reduce safety risks. The turbo pump design of the Falcon 9 rocket, which provides the propellant gas for the rocket engines, is being modified. According to NASA and the US Air Force, this would contain cracks.
Now that the company can continue with its activities, it does have a backlog of rocket launches to catch up. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, SpaceX had planned to launch 20 rockets in 2016, but ultimately only had eight. This year, those launches will not only have to be made up, but twenty-seven more are planned. In 2018, SpaceX plans to bring NASA astronauts to and from the ISS.
With its activities, SpaceX tries to make space travel cheaper and more reliable. SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stated in the past that he would like to see the possibility of establishing a human colony on Mars in the long term.