Update (Feb. 5): The next Falcon 9 launch of Starlink satellites, slated for early Feb. 7, has been delayed to allow teams more time to work on the rocket. A new date has not yet been announced, but SpaceX could fly a separate mission as soon as Feb. 12.
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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket infused some warmth into skies above the Space Coast when its Merlin main engines roared to life early Thursday, propelling 60 internet satellites to orbit and setting the stage for yet another launch a day later.
The 230-foot rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 1:19 a.m. just as temperatures dipped below 40 degrees. After a northeast flight from Launch Complex 40, the rocket’s first stage flipped around for an Of Course I Still Love You drone ship landing, marking the company’s 74th to date.
Sixty-five minutes after liftoff, all 60 Starlink satellites were deployed to low-Earth orbit, where they’ll spend the next several weeks refining their positions. Thursday’s mission was the 18th for Starlink, meaning SpaceX has launched nearly 1,100 of the flat-packed spacecraft.
Starlink is SpaceX’s space-based internet service, which is in public beta testing for customers in the higher latitudes of North America. After a $499 equipment fee, the roughly 100 to 150 Megabits per second connection costs $99 a month.
But the company isn’t finished: a second Falcon 9 with yet another batch of 60 Starlink satellites is poised for liftoff at nearby Kennedy Space Center this weekend. If schedules hold, the rocket will fly at 4:31 a.m. Sunday toward the northeast and then target a landing on the Just Read the Instructions drone ship.
There’s good news for spectators on the weather front. Conditions at pad 39A should not only be decent for liftoff – the Space Force is expected to release a new forecast Friday afternoon – but the Space Coast should warm up a bit, too.
Though local conditions might seem favorable, what’s really forced SpaceX’s hand lately is weather in the Atlantic Ocean recovery zone. If there’s a high risk of rough seas that could damage the drone ship or topple the booster, teams might have to delay the Sunday launch.
For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.
Launch Sunday, Feb. 7
Visit floridatoday.com/space at 3 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, for live video and updates.