SpaceX Attempts to Break NASA Gemini Record with Falcon Launches

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SpaceX recently tried to break a 56-year-old rocket record set by NASA’s Gemini 11 mission in September 1966[2]. The company aimed to launch a Falcon 9 rocket and a Falcon Heavy rocket from Florida with as little as 45 minutes between the two launches[2]. However, SpaceX had to postpone the Falcon Heavy launch on Thursday evening, according to an FAA advisory and confirmed by a Space Force spokesperson[2].

Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy Rockets

The Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled to launch from the Space Force’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), carrying Starlink satellites[2]. The Falcon Heavy rocket, composed of three reusable Falcon 9 nine-engine cores, generates more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. As one of the world’s most powerful operational rockets, Falcon Heavy can lift nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lbs) to orbit.

Gemini 11 Mission

NASA’s Gemini 11 mission, launched in September 1966, set the record for the shortest time between two orbital launches[3]. The Gemini program, which took place between 1961 and 1966, was NASA’s second human spaceflight program and aimed to test the ability of astronauts to maneuver their spacecraft by means of manual control. The Gemini 11 mission involved docking and maneuvering with the Agena target vehicle and set an altitude record.

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SpaceX’s Attempt to Break the Record

SpaceX’s attempt to break the Gemini 11 record involved launching the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets in quick succession. The Falcon 9 mission, Starlink 6-7, aimed to send a batch of Starlink V2 Mini satellites to low Earth orbit. The launch window for the Jupiter 3 satellite on the Falcon Heavy opened at 11:04 p.m. EDT (0304 UTC on July 28). However, due to the postponement of the Falcon Heavy launch, SpaceX was unable to break the record[2].

Despite missing the opportunity to break the record, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 9 rocket, carrying 22 Starlink satellites, and landed the returning rocket at sea. The Falcon Heavy rocket also successfully launched the Jupiter 3 satellite, the largest commercial communications satellite ever built.

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