SpaceX looks ready to start the new year with a bang with the Turksat 5A mission expected to launch in less than two hours. SpaceX’s first commercial mission of 2021 will deliver a communications satellite into orbit for Turkey and is the first of two payloads the California-based company will fly for the country. The Turksat 5A payload will launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The four-hour launch window will open at approximately 1.28am GMT (8.28pm EST) on Friday, January 8 (Thursday eastern time).
Turkey is looking to increase its presence in space by expanding its communications capabilities to customers across Europe and the Middle East as well as Turkey.
Turksat 5A is the first of two satellites and the second, Turksat 5B, is expected to launch later this year.
The launch was met with some blowback in October last year, when hundreds of pro-Armenia protesters rallied outside of SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
The protesters claimed the Turkish satellite would be used to “kill civilians”.
Should poor weather scupper the mission, a backup window opens at the same time on Saturday, January 9.
Last year, SpaceX launched a total of 26 Falcon 9 rockets and this year promises to be equally, if not more, busy.
The Falcon 9 booster used tonight has already been to space on three occasions.
The rocket flew on two Starlink missions and carried the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 into orbit.
The rocket’s payload fairing (protective shell) has also served SpaceX on two missions.
One half was used during the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 mission and the other half was used on the ANASIS-II mission in July last year.
Once the rocket’s stages separate, the Falcon 9 booster will return to Earth and land on a remote droneship in the Atlantic.
SpaceX fans are also looking forward to the first major flight of the Starship prototype SN9.
SN9 or Serial Number 9 carried out a static fire test of its powerful Raptor engines.
Static fire tests typically precede a proper launch and SN9 is expected to possibly launch between Friday and Sunday.
SpaceX is developing Starship as a multi-planetary vehicle capable of ferrying humans to the Moon, Mars and possibly beyond.
Mr Musk has made it a personal mission to be the first to put boots on Mars.
The South African billionaire believes the future of mankind relies on humanity becoming a space-faring civilisation.