April 16, 2024

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SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral

SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral

A Falcon 9 rocket is ready to lift off from pad 39A on a mission to deliver 23 more Starlink satellites into orbit. Image: Spaceflight Now.

Update at 8:54 PM ET: SpaceX has adjusted the T-0 liftoff time as weather once again proved challenging both at the launch site and in the booster recovery area.

SpaceX is preparing the first of two Starlink missions from Cape Canaveral within 48 hours. The Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on Saturday at 11:09 p.m. EDT (0309 UTC Sunday). It will be followed by another Falcon 9 rocket from nearby Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Monday.

In a forecast issued by the 45th Weather Squadron on Friday, Space Force meteorologists gave a 75 percent chance of acceptable weather for Saturday's launch. The main concerns relate to high winds and breaching of the cumulonimbus cloud base associated with the lightning hazard.

Spaceflight Now will have live coverage with commentary of the launch starting about an hour before liftoff.

The mission was originally scheduled to take place on Friday evening, but SpaceX abandoned that attempt due to bad weather. The decision to cancel the launch came Friday afternoon as the rocket was exiting the hangar at Launch Complex 39A. The Falcon 9 was not lifted vertically until late Friday night.

The Falcon 9 first stage assigned to the Starlink 6-42 mission will make the record-setting 19th flight. The Booster 1060 first flew in June 2020 and has flown 12 previous Starlink delivery missions. It was recently launched on February 15 to put the IM-1 commercial lander on its way to the Moon.

The Falcon 9 first stage will land on the “just read the instructions” drone after about eight and a half minutes of flight. The combustion of the rocket's second stage will place 23 second-generation Starlink satellites into orbit, with deployment occurring about an hour and five minutes after launch.

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Another batch of Starlink satellites is scheduled to lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral on Monday during a four-hour launch window that opens at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 UTC). More Starlink vehicles will head into space later in the week from SpaceX's West Coast launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Late last year, SpaceX said it had 2.3 million subscribers in more than 70 countries for its Starlink internet service. Since 2019, the company has launched 6,031 satellites, according to statistics compiled by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which maintains a database of spaceflights. Of those satellites, 5,634 are still in orbit, and 5,564 appear to be operating normally, according to McDowell's last update on March 22, 2024.