SpaceX to launch Falcon 9 first-stage booster on record-breaking 19th flight – Spaceflight Now

In a significant milestone for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation, the company is gearing up for the unprecedented 19th launch of its Falcon 9 first-stage booster. Scheduled to take place just after midnight at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40, this mission aims to deploy 23 satellites into orbit. The liftoff time has been adjusted to 12:33 a.m. EST (0533 UTC).

The booster leading this mission, B1058, has already completed an impressive 18 missions, solidifying its position as the fleet leader. Its illustrious history began in May 2020, when it carried astronauts for the first time on the Demo-2 Crew Dragon mission. Despite its numerous accomplishments, B1058 still bears the proud but faded NASA ‘worm’ logo from that historic flight.

However, the launch time experienced a slight delay due to the rocket’s late hoisting onto the launch pad, pushing the start of the window to 11 p.m. EST (0400 UTC). SpaceX has allocated backup launch opportunities until 3 a.m. EST (0800 UTC) on Saturday morning to ensure a successful liftoff.

Weather conditions at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station have a moderate 60-70 percent chance of meeting the criteria for a safe launch, with better conditions expected at the beginning of the launch window. The primary concerns are potential violations of the thick cloud layer and cumulus cloud rules, identified by the 45th Weather Squadron.

For those eager to witness this exciting event, Spaceflight Now will provide live coverage of the launch, starting an hour prior to liftoff. Additionally, you can catch glimpses of the rocket on our Launch Pad Live stream.

Following liftoff, the Falcon 9 first stage will gracefully return to Earth, landing on the drone ship named ‘Just Read the Instructions’ roughly eight and a half minutes into the flight. The second stage will execute two burns to deliver the 23 second-generation Starlink satellites into their designated orbits, with deployment expected approximately one hour and five minutes after launch.

Recent reports from SpaceX indicate that their Starlink internet service has garnered an impressive user base of 2.3 million individuals across 70 countries. Since its inception in 2019, SpaceX has successfully launched 5,604 satellites, as noted by Jonathan McDowell, an esteemed astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. As of December 20, 5,226 satellites remain in orbit, with the majority operating efficiently.

Excitement fills the air as SpaceX propels the Starlink satellite constellation to new heights, revolutionizing global connectivity and marking another milestone in the realm of space exploration.

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