December 7, 2023

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SpaceX Falcon 9 weather-controlled rocket launches 22 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX Falcon 9 weather-controlled rocket launches 22 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral – Spaceflight Now

Updated at 1:50 a.m. EST (0240 UTC): Launch details added after the launch of the Starlink 6-21 mission.

Far from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket jumps off the company’s 70th orbital flight pad in 2023. Photo: Adam Bernstein

After an evening of gusty winds and multiple T-0 liftoff time shifts, SpaceX was able to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Thursday morning on the 44th Starlink delivery mission of the year.

The launch took place from Space Launch Complex 40 at 1:36 a.m. EDT (0536 UTC), the fourth launch opportunity out of five possibilities in the window. SpaceX did not give a reason for the delay, but high winds battered the area overnight.

The US Space Force’s 45th Meteorological Squadron, based at Cape Canaveral, warned of scattered rain off the Atlantic Ocean and strong winds. They predicted a 50-50 chance of a weather rule violation, with cumulonimbus clouds and take-off winds being the main concerns.

The Falcon 9 rocket carries 22 second-generation satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink Internet service. The company announced this week that its service is now available across the United States thanks to four times the additional capacity provided by Starink’s latest satellite model, known as the V2 Mini. It recently said Starlink now has more than 2 million subscribers in more than 60 countries.

After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket headed toward the southeast, aiming for an orbit inclined at a 43-degree angle to the equator. The first stage booster, on its eighth flight, separated from the second stage after about two and a half minutes of flight, landing on the drone ship “Just Read Instructions.” The battleship was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean east of the Bahamas, about 420 miles (675 km) from Cape Canaveral.

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The booster, tail number B1076, first flew the CRS-26 cargo mission in November 2022. It continued to fly the OneWeb Launch 16 and Intelsat IS-40e missions, and also delivered four Starlink cargoes. Its last flight was on September 9, 2023, making it the fourth-fastest flight of a Falcon 9 rocket among flights.

Two Falcon 9 second stage burns would be needed to place the satellites into the required 182 by 176 mile (293 by 284 km) orbit. The satellite beam is scheduled to separate just over an hour into the flight.

According to statistics compiled by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and widely respected expert on spaceflight activity, SpaceX has launched 5,200 Starlink satellites so far, and the number of Starlink satellites remaining in orbit stands at 4,842.

A Falcon 9 rocket takes to the skies over Florida during the Starlink 6-21 mission on Thursday, October 5. Photo: Michael Caine