SpaceX launches Starlink satellites from Florida, but booster lost during landing

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SpaceX launches Starlink satellites from Florida, but booster lost during landing

Editor’s note: We’ve brought you a front-row seat to rocket launches from Florida since 1966. Journalism like our space coverage takes time and resources. Please consider a subscription here to stay up-to-date.

Update (Feb. 16): SpaceX is no longer targeting 12:55 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, for the next Starlink launch from Kennedy Space Center. A new launch window is TBD. Stay up to date at our launch calendar here.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket flew from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on its sixth and final mission late Monday, successfully delivering 60 Starlink satellites to orbit but failing to land on its designated drone ship.

Thunderstorms rolled away from the Cape just in time for the 230-foot rocket to clear the towers at Launch Complex 40, kicking off a 64-minute mission to low-Earth orbit. The 10:59 p.m. launch marked the second attempt, the first of which on Sunday was scrubbed due to weather.

Eight minutes after liftoff, Falcon 9’s first stage appeared to suffer engine-related issues as it approached the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship northeast of Florida, eventually ditching into the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX did not clarify what went wrong, but the company’s live webcast showed a glimpse of flames in the distance beyond the ship.

Booster recoveries, especially well-used vehicles that have seen several flights, are secondary missions for SpaceX. The overall mission was declared a success when the internet-beaming Starlink satellites entered the correct orbit about an hour later.

The landing failure marked the first time since March 2020 that SpaceX lost a first stage.

At Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A, meanwhile, teams aren’t slowing down. Yet another Falcon 9 rocket with yet another batch of 60 Starlink satellites is currently slated to launch at 12:55 a.m. Wednesday, the opening of an instantaneous window.

If everything stays on track, the previously flown rocket will attempt to land on the Just Read the Instructions drone ship, which is also stationed in the Atlantic. The Space Force expects 80% “go” conditions late Tuesday into early Wednesday.

For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly. Support space journalism by subscribing at floridatoday.com/specialoffer/.

Launch Wednesday, Feb. 17

  • Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
  • Mission: 20th launch of Starlink satellites
  • Launch Time: 12:55 a.m. ET
  • Launch Pad: 39A at Kennedy Space Center
  • Trajectory: Northeast
  • Landing: Just Read the Instructions drone ship
  • Weather: 80% “go”

Visit floridatoday.com/space at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, for live video and updates.

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