SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites on Falcon 9 flight from Cape Canaveral – Spaceflight Now

A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, carrying 23 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit on April 28, 2024. Photo: Adam Bernstein/Spaceflight Now

Following the historic launch of a pair of the European Commission's Galileo satellites, SpaceX has launched another batch of Starlink high-speed internet satellites. Sunday evening's Falcon 9 launch marks the 29th dedicated launch of Starlink satellites in 2024.

The Starlink 6-54 mission was launched from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) at 6:08 PM EDT (2208 UTC).

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, SpaceX fleet number B1076, was launched for the 13th time. It has previously supported Ovzon 3 and Intelsat IS-40e launches, SpaceX's 26th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-26) flight, and six Starlink missions.

Just over eight minutes after liftoff, B1076 touched down on the SpaceX drone. “Just read the instructions.” This was the 80th landing aboard JRTI and the 301st booster landing to date.

In a social media post, Kiko Dontchev, SpaceX's vice president of launch, noted that the team completed a five-hour JRTI training session at Port Canaveral between the drone's arrival and departure in support of the Starlink 6-54 mission.

The 23 Starlink satellites are in addition to the 5,874 satellites currently in orbit, according to numbers tabulated April 24 by astronomer and orbital tracking expert Jonathan McDowell. Before this launch, 633 Starlink satellites have been launched in 2024.

The Federated States of Micronesia, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean east of Australia, is the latest country added to the list of countries where Starlink service is available, SpaceX announced on Wednesday.

Dragon's departure

The launch of Starlink 6-54 comes just hours after the SpaceX Cargo Dragon detached from the International Space Station to begin its roughly 36-hour journey to land off the coast of Florida. It was undocked at 1:10 PM EST (1710 UTC).

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Landing Tuesday morning will end the CRS-30 mission. It has been docked at the International Space Station for more than 30 days, and will return carrying more than 4,000 pounds of scientific experiments.

This operation is also another important step toward launching Boeing's first crewed mission to an orbital outpost using its Starliner spacecraft.

Before that launch can take place, SpaceX needs to move its Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft from the forward-facing port to the space-facing port of the Harmony module. This maneuver is scheduled to take place on May 2.

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