After a few days of delays, SpaceX appears to have settled on Thursday, January 7th for the first of several dozen Falcon 9 launches planned in 2021.
Originally scheduled to launch as early as January 4th, SpaceX’s Turksat 5A communications satellite launch was “placed TBD due to mission assurance” on January 1st – an unfortunate catch-all euphemism often used by launch providers in lieu of any real explanation for delays. Regardless, Next Spaceflight reports that Turksat 5A will be Falcon 9 B1060’s fourth launch, a milestone the first stage (booster) has reached just six months after its first flight.
Despite the minor delay, SpaceX’s current target of four launches this month is still well within reach even though the slip exemplifies the uphill battle the company will face as it aims to achieve CEO Elon Musk’s goal of 48 launches in 2021. Weather is currently 60% favorable for SpaceX’s first launch of the year and Turksat 5A is scheduled to lift off no earlier than 8:28 pm EST on January 7th (01:28 UTC, 8 Jan).
Unfortunately, SpaceX’s first launch of the new year has been steeped in unprecedented controversy for the company, including the first-ever instance of mass-protests at its Hawthorne, California factory and headquarters. The reason: Turksat 5A, while partially meant for civilian communications, will also support the Turkish military, which supported Azerbaijan after the country – unprovoked – reignited a long-simmering conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in September 2020. Read from source….