20240412 Starlink 6-49 launch AB.

SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster, B1062, lifts off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on the
Starlink 6-49 mission. This marked the first time a booster launch and landed for a 20th time. Image: Adam Bernstein

Update 10:13 p.m. EDT: SpaceX successfully launched and landed its booster, B1062, for a 20th time.

SpaceX shattered multiple records Friday night as it launched 23 satellites for the company’s Starlink internet service from Cape Canaveral. A Falcon 9 rocket lifted offf from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 9:40 p.m. EDT (0140 UTC).

It was the first time a Falcon 9 first-stage booster flew for a 20th time and it came just two days, 20 hours since another Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral’s pad 40. That smashes the previous record for the shortest time between launches by 21 hours 24 minutes.

Meteorologists with the 45th Weather Squadron predicted near-prefect conditions for launch. They forecast a less than five-percent chance of a weather rule violation during the four-hour launch window, with liftoff winds being the only concern.

This particular Falcon 9 rocket has the tail number 1062 in the SpaceX flight and entered service in November 2020 carrying a GPS satellite for the U.S. Space Force. It has flown astronauts into space twice on the Inspiration 4 and Axiom 1 commercial missions. It has also flown 12 previous Starlink delivery missions.

The Falcon 9 soared to the south-east, targeting an orbit inclined at 43 degrees to the equator. After separating from the second stage about two and a half minutes into flight, the first stage booster headed downrange for a landing on the drone ship ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’, which was stationed in the Atlantic, east of the Bahamas.

“Attaining a new milestone of 20 launches with a single booster in [less than] four years represents a formidable accomplishment. However, ensuring this feat was achieved safely and reliably has posed a monumental challenge,” said Jon Edwards, SpaceX’s vice president of Falcon launch vehicles, in a social media post. “This achievement not only speaks to the remarkable capabilities of the Falcon 9 but also highlights the extraordinary competence and constant vigilance of the Falcon team. Bravo!”

Two burns of the rocket’s second stage will put the 23 second-generation Starlink satellites into orbit, with deployment occurring about one hour, five minutes after launch.

SpaceX reported it has 2.3 million subscribers in more than 70 countries for its Starlink internet service. Since 2019 the company has launched 6,189 satellites according to statistics compiled by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who maintains a space flight database. Of those satellites 5,787 remain in orbit and 5,5721 appear to be working normally, according to McDowell’s latest update on April 10, 2024.

20240412 Starlink 6-49 streak MC.

A streak shot of the Falcon 9 rocket on the Starlink 6-49 mission. The bright launch streak contrasts with the
dimmer streaks of planes coming in for landings at Orlando International Airport. Image: Michael Cain

[13 Apr 2024] SpaceX launches Falcon 9 booster on record-breaking 20th flight
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