SpaceX double vision: These photos show two Falcon 9 rockets on their pads for back-to-back launches


Two SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets stand ready to launch different missions from their Florida launch pads. At right is a Falcon 9 carrying 49 Starlink internet satellites atop NASA's Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. At left, a different Falcon 9 with the Italian Cosmo-SkyMed Second Generation FM2 satellite stands atop a pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. They will launch on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, respectively. (Image credit: SpaceX)

If a recent SpaceX rocket photo has you seeing double, you're not alone.

A Twitter post Monday (Jan. 31) shows two Falcon 9 rockets on their pads at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and the nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, ahead of their respective launches.

One photo captures both rockets under a twilight sky of deep orange. In the foreground is a Falcon 9 atop Pad 39A at NASA's KSC, which is expected to launch no earlier than Tuesday (Feb. 1). In the background is a separate Falcon 9 rocket carrying an Italian Earth observation satellite called Cosmo-SkyMed Second Generation FM2 satellite

That rocket is set to launch tonight (Jan. 31) at 6:11 p.m. EST (2311 GMT) after four delays. It's sitting atop the Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral. You'll be able to watch the launch here, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning about 15 minutes before launch time.

Related: The evolution of SpaceX's rockets in pictures

The SpaceX Falcon 9 in this photo taken on Jan. 30, 2022 picture is set to launch the Cosmo-SkyMed Second Generation FM2 satellite. In the background, at right, is the SpaceX's Starlink launch atop a second SpaceX Falcon 9 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The photo was taken from a site near the Cosmo-SkyMed satellite's launch site at Space Launch Complex 40 of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. (Image credit: SpaceX)

A second SpaceX photo reverses the view, with the Falcon 9 at SLC-40 in the foreground and the Starlink-packed booster in the background at KSC. That photo, apparently taken at a different time over the weekend, shows the two rockets under a pristine blue Florida sky. 

While both launches have been delayed, the Starlink flight is largely waiting for SpaceX to launch the Cosmo-SkyMed Second Generation FM2 satellite. The Starlink Falcon 9 rocket is going to launch 49 more Starlinks to add on to SpaceX's constellation of nearly 2,000 operational satellites. It is scheduled to launch no earlier than Tuesday at 2:17 p.m. EST (1917 GMT) from NASA's Launch Complex 39A.

Both SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets have flown several missions before. Their first-stage boosters are also expected to return to Earth for landings on either a land-based pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station or an offshore drone ship so they can be used again.

SpaceX operates its two Florida launch pads under agreements signed with the agency and Air Force earlier in the decade, as both entities sought to turn the Cape launch facility into a "multi-user spaceport for both federal and commercial customers," according to a 2014 release.

SpaceX also launches human missions using Launch Pad 39A, including Crew Dragon missions for the International Space Station and the Inspiration4 all-civilian mission of 2021 that rocketed four people to Earth orbit. The next crewed launch from KSC is expected in April 2022, for the Crew-4 mission.

SpaceX also has a third Falcon 9 launch site in California at the Vandenberg Space Force Base. There is yet another Falcon 9 rocket there awaiting its own mission, SpaceX has said. 

A Falcon 9 rocket will launch the classified NROL-87 payload from Vandenberg on Wednesday (Feb. 2). That mission is scheduled to lift off at 3:18 p.m. EST (2018 GMT).

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: