CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX teams at Kennedy Space Center launched the 26th dedicated Falcon 9 rocket with 60 Starlink satellites Tuesday afternoon.
The liftoff at 3:01 p.m. from launchpad 39A brings SpaceX closer to 2,000 Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbit.
Elon Musk’s company is using the satellites to provide internet, slowly adding new locations with plans to eventually offer the Wi-Fi worldwide.
About 8 minutes after liftoff the rocket’s booster returned to land on the recovery droneship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship – the 9th landing of this booster pic.twitter.com/wzPjMsu2z3— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 4, 2021
Sea conditions were a concern ahead of liftoff but did not appear to impact the landing which marked the 9th successful recovery for this particular piece of rocket hardware.
Meanwhile in Texas, SpaceX is aiming to perform another high-altitude test flight of its Starship spaceship prototype. Previous flight have ended in explosion after landing but SpaceX hopes this prototype called Serial No. 15 survives its flight.
An attempt Tuesday was scrubbed but could happen later in the week.
“Targeting Tuesday, May 4, at 3:01 p.m. ET for Falcon 9 launch,” SpaceX said via Twitter after a successful test fire of the rocket’s Merlin main engines early Monday. “But team is keeping an eye on weather in the recovery area.”
The Space Force’s latest forecast calls for 80% “go” conditions around pad 39A. But downrange in the Atlantic, at-sea conditions are expected to pose a “moderate risk” to booster recovery on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship. If seas are too rough, it could make Falcon 9′s autonomous landing more difficult or even topple a newly landed booster into the ocean.
Tuesday’s launch includes an instantaneous window, meaning Falcon 9 must launch exactly on time or delay to another day. This means teams will be unable to wait for any inclement weather to clear the area during the window, Florida Today reported.
Targeting Tuesday, May 4 at 3:01 p.m. EDT for Falcon 9 launch of 60 Starlink satellites from LC-39A in Florida, but team is keeping an eye on weather in the recovery area— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 3, 2021
If successful, a landing on Tuesday would mark the company’s 82nd booster recovery to date. The mission is also the Space Coast’s 13th launch of the year and 26th Starlink flight overall.
SpaceX has launched roughly 1,500 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit, where most are still functional and beaming high-speed internet connectivity to thousands of customers in North America. The company hopes to deploy thousands more satellites to increase coverage – soon to Europe, then slowly across the globe – and overall performance.
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