SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral with 23 Starlink satellites

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 carrying 23 Starlink satellites. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now.

SpaceX lofted its third batch of Starlink satellites in a little more than four days, with a Falcon 9 lifting off from Cape Canaveral at 2:47 a.m. EST (0747 UTC) Wednesday morning.

The Starlink 6-29 mission was originally targeted for 11:01 p.m. EST (0401 UTC) on Tuesday night but SpaceX pushed back the launch twice. It was the third batch of Starlink Satellites to reach orbit in recent days. Just after midnight on Saturday morning 23 satellites lifted off from Cape Canaveral. That was followed by another 22 Starlinks launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California Monday morning. Wednesday morning’s launch carried an additional 23 satellites aloft.

The Falcon 9 rocket was lifted upright at Space Launch Complex 40 shortly before 10 p.m. EST (0300 UTC), much later than usual. The previous mission from pad 40 had lifted off just four days earlier making this the ninth fastest turnaround attempt for the launch facility.

The Falcon 9 rocket is lifted upright at Space Launch Complex 40 as SpaceX presses ahead with plans for a Starlink delivery mission. Image: Adam Bernstein/Spaceflight Now.

With ignition of its nine Merlin 1D engines, the Falcon 9 set off on a south-easterly trajectory, targeting an orbit inclined 43 degrees to the Equator. After burning its nine Merlin 1D engines for nearly two and a half minutes, the first stage separated from the second stage and continued downrange to land on the drone ship ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’ in the Atlantic Ocean, about 424 miles (682 km) from the launch site.

File photo of SpaceX’s Starlink V2 Mini satellites inside a payload processing facility at Cape Canaveral earlier this year. Credit: SpaceX

Meanwhile, high above, the single vacuum Merlin engine of the second stage continued to fire for about six-minutes to reach a parking orbit. After coasting for about 45 minutes, the second-stage engine re-ignited for a two-second burn to refine the orbit. Deployment of the 23 V2 Mini Starlink satellites was confirmed by SpaceX in a social media post.

It was SpaceX’s 87th orbital launch of the year and the 276th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket to date.