March 3, 2024

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SpaceX launches Falcon 9 first stage booster on record-breaking 19th flight – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX launches Falcon 9 first stage booster on record-breaking 19th flight – Spaceflight Now

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has launched for a record 19th time, sending 23 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. Photo: Pete Carstens

Updated at 1:06 a.m. EST: The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has been confirmed. The B1058 missile landed on board the drone several minutes after its launch.

SpaceX sent up a Falcon 9 first stage booster on its record-breaking 19th launch just after midnight, as it continues to expand its Starlink satellite constellation. Liftoff took place from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral at 12:33 a.m. EDT (0533 UTC).

The B1058 first stage was already the fleet leader with 18 previous missions and reinforces that position with the Starlink 6-32 mission, which will deliver 23 satellites to orbit. The booster first flew in May 2020 carrying astronauts for the first time on the Demo-2 Crew Dragon mission. It still bears the faded NASA “worm” logo from that mission.

NASA's “worm” logo on B1058, seen during recovery operations after its fourth flight in December 2020. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now.

Liftoff time was delayed just over an hour from the window opening at 11 PM EDT (0400 UTC) as the rocket was not lifted upright at the launch pad until approximately 7:35 PM EDT (0035 UTC) ). SpaceX had backup launch opportunities available as of 3 a.m. EDT (0800 UTC) Saturday morning.

There is a 60-70 percent chance of acceptable launch weather with better conditions when the window is open, the 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station said Thursday. The primary concerns were violations of the thick cloud layer and cumulus cloud bases.

The Falcon 9 rocket's first stage landed on the “just read the instructions” drone ship about eight and a half minutes into the 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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SpaceX revealed this week that its Starlink internet service now has 2.3 million users in 70 countries. Since 2019, it has launched 5,604 satellites According to statistics It was compiled by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which maintains a database of spaceflights. As of December 20, there are still 5,226 satellites in orbit, and 5,191 satellites appear to be operating normally.