SpaceX launches Starlink mission, prepares to undock a Crew Dragon from ISS Monday

A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on the sunset launch of the Starlink 6-43 mission on March 10, 2024. Image: Steven Young/Spaceflight Now

SpaceX is closing out the weekend with a pair of planned Falcon 9 launches from Florida and California while also preparing for the undocking of Crew Dragon Endurance from the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9 rocket supporting the Starlink 6-43 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 7:05 p.m. EDT (2305 UTC). It will add 23 Starlink satellites to the growing low Earth orbit constellation.

A launch weather forecast from the 45th Weather Squadron shows a greater than 95 percent chance of favorable weather at liftoff with no additional risk criteria listed as watch items.

The first stage booster supporting this mission, tail number B1077, launched for an 11th time. It previously supported the Crew-5 mission, the Commercial Resupply Services 28 (CRS-28) mission and the Northrop Grumman 20 (NG-20) Cygnus flight to the ISS.

About 8.5 minutes after liftoff, the booster landed on the SpaceX droneship, ‘Just Read the Instructions.’ This will be the 74th landing on JRTI and the 218th booster landing to date.

This mission comes as NASA and SpaceX are also aiming to launch the first second-generation Cargo Dragon spacecraft bound for the orbiting outpost from SLC-40 later this month. A launch date hasn’t been announced, but it will use the new crew access tower for the first time.

Dragon coming home

While SpaceX worked on the Starlink 6-43 mission from Florida and the Starlink 7-17 mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, it is also preparing with NASA to return the quartet of the Crew-7 mission from the ISS.

The astronauts and cosmonaut bid a formal farewell to the rest of Expedition 70 during a ceremony on Sunday morning, which culminated in a change of command ceremony where European Space Agency astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, passed the ceremonial key to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko.

“You have now surpassed the previous record and are your way to 1,000 days in space. I don’t think I could leave the command in better hands,” Mogensen said to Kononenko.

Undocking of Crew Dragon Endurance is set for 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 UTC) on Monday, March 11, with splashdown anticipated for around 5:35 a.m. EDT (0935 UTC) on Tuesday, March 12.