June 25, 2024

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SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites on 5th anniversary of its first dedicated Starlink flight – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites on 5th anniversary of its first dedicated Starlink flight – Spaceflight Now
A Falcon 9 rocket is ready to support the launch of Starlink 6-44 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on March 13, 2024. File photo: Spaceflight Now

Update at 7:32 PM EST: SpaceX has pushed the liftoff time to the end of the window.

SpaceX is looking to complete its third Falcon 9 launch in less than 48 hours with a mission from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. As with its Wednesday night launch, SpaceX aims to send 23 more Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.

Whether by coincidence or design, the Starlink 6-63 mission falls on the fifth anniversary of the launch of the first dedicated Starlink, Starlink v0.9 on May 23, 2019. The launch times of the two missions are also coincidentally very similar. Thursday night’s flight is targeting liftoff at 10:45 PM EDT (0245 UTC) and its five-year counterpart is launching at 10:30 PM EDT (0230 UTC).

Spaceflight Now will have live coverage starting about an hour before liftoff.

Thursday’s launch-supporting Falcon 9 first stage booster, tail number B1077, will be launched into the SpaceX fleet for the 13th time. It has previously supported launches of the Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station, Northrop Grumman’s twentieth Cygnus flight to the International Space Station (NG-20) and six previous Starlink missions.

Just over eight minutes after liftoff, the booster will land on SpaceX’s unmanned, “just read the instructions” vehicle in the Atlantic Ocean. This will be the 82nd booster landing for JRTI and the 312nd booster landing to date for SpaceX.

Starlink in numbers

Earlier this week, SpaceX reached the milestone of three million customers worldwide as well as active service in 99 countries, markets or regions.

According to Starlink customer growth data tracked by Payload Space, SpaceX has added nearly 700,000 customers since Q4 2023.

SpaceX has launched quite a few Starlink missions to reach these numbers. In the five years since the start of dedicated Starlink flights, there have been 164 such missions, more than half of which have occurred since the start of 2023.

  • 2019 – 2
  • 2020-14
  • 2021 – 17*
  • 2022-34
  • 2023 – 63 (43 V2 Mini launches)
  • 2024 – 37*
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The two stars represent a pair of missions that weren’t just Starlink flights. Starlink 4-3, which launched on December 2, 2021, included a pair of BlackSky Gen-2 satellites. Likewise, Starlink 7-16, launched on March 18, 2024, is believed to have included a pair of Starshield satellites, although SpaceX has not confirmed this.

Last year, SpaceX also began launching its own Starlink V2 Mini satellites as part of its quest for a fully operational Starship rocket. So far, 100 various sets of Starlink V2 Mini satellites have been launched.

SpaceX launched the first dedicated flight of Starlink satellites on May 23, 2019. Image: Adam Bernstein