May 22, 2024

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SpaceX launches a Falcon 9 rocket on a Starlink mission from Kennedy Space Center – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX launches a Falcon 9 rocket on a Starlink mission from Kennedy Space Center – Spaceflight Now
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from the pad at Launch Complex 39A as captured in this time-lapse shot on April 17, 2024. Photo: Adam Bernstein/Spaceflight Now

SpaceX completed its final Falcon 9 launch from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday evening. The Starlink 6-51 mission came about a week and a half after the first Bandwagon-1 ride-sharing mission was launched from the same launch pad.

The Falcon 9 rocket launch occurred at 5:26 PM EDT (2126 UTC), marking the beginning of a roughly four-hour launch window.

With this launch, SpaceX is now one flight away from tying the total number of Space Shuttle missions from this historic launch pad. This was the 81st flight of a Falcon rocket, compared to a total of 82 shuttle flights.

There were a total of 174 orbital flights of LC-39A. Nine of these were Falcon Heavy rockets, and the remaining 72 were Falcon 9 rockets. There were also 11 Saturn 5 launches from this platform.

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, SpaceX fleet number B1077, was launched for the 12th time. It has previously supported missions such as the Crew-5 flight for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, the GPS 3 Space Vehicle 06 geostationary satellite, and the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft on the NG-20 mission to the International Space Station.

About 8.5 minutes after takeoff, B1077 touched down on the SpaceX drone. “Just read the instructions.” This was the 78th booster landing for JRTI and the 298th landing for SpaceX to date. This comes just days after B1062 achieved flight leader status with a total of 20 launches.

The 23 Starlink satellites on board are added to the 5,809 satellites currently in orbit, according to astronomer and orbital tracking expert Jonathan McDowell. SpaceX has launched 564 Starlink satellites so far in 2024 and this will be its 26th flight this year to add more.

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The Falcon 9 rocket supporting the Starlink 6-51 mission rises into the sky over Florida as a Tui Airways plane flies by from a safe distance. Image: Michael Caine/Space Flight Now