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21st flight for SpaceX booster on tap for Cape Canaveral launch tonight

Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Science & Technology News

SpaceX has queued up another Starlink launch from the Space Coast for Friday night using the booster for a fleet-leading 21st time.

A Falcon 9 rocket on the Starlink 6-59 mission carrying 23 Starlink satellites is set to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 targeting an 8:32 p.m. liftoff during a window the Space Force says runs from 7:52-11:30 p.m. Backup options on Saturday begin at 8:06 p.m.

Space Launch Delta 45’s weather squadron forecasts a 75% chance for good conditions at the opening of the window, but that improves to 95% by the end of the window. A 24-hour delay sees those chances fall to 40% at the opening of the window improving to 80% by the end.

This marks the 21st flight for the first-stage booster, having previously flown on human spaceflight missions Inspiration4 and Axiom Space’s Ax-1 among others.

It will attempt a recovery landing downrange on the droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

This marks the 37th launch from the Space Coast for 2024 with all but two coming from SpaceX, although the majority have been for its growing constellation of Starlink internet satellites, which now number close to 6,500 launched since 2019, according to statistics tracked by astronomer Jonathan McDowell.

 

The others were United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur on its first flight in January and the final Delta IV Heavy launch in April. On tap for ULA, though, will be its third launch, using its third different rocket of the year. An Atlas V topped with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is set to launch as early as Monday on the Crew Flight Test mission taking NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on a short trip to the International Space Station.

Launch is targeted for 4:43 p.m. from Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41.

It’s the first human spaceflight for Starliner as Boeing attempts to play catchup to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. If all goes well, Starliner can join Dragon for regular rotational astronaut ferry service to and from the ISS as soon as February 2025.

SpaceX’s fleet of four Crew Dragons have flown 13 mission carrying 50 humans to space since May 2020, and has three more missions carrying an additional 12 people to space that could fly this year.


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