SpaceX launches Falcon 9 rocket on Starlink mission from Kennedy Space Center

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from the pad at Launch Complex 39A as captured in this streak shot on April 17, 2024. Image: Adam Bernstein/Spaceflight Now

SpaceX completed its latest Falcon 9 launch from pad 39A NASA’s Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday evening. The Starlink 6-51 mission came about a week-and-a-half after the launch of its first Bandwagon-1 rideshare mission from that same launch pad.

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket happened 5:26 p.m. EDT (2126 UTC), the opening of an approximately four-hour launch window.

With this launch, SpaceX is now one flight shy of tying the total number of Space Shuttle missions from this historic launch pad. This was the 81st flight of a Falcon rocket compared to the 82 total shuttle flights.

There have been a total of 174 orbital flights from LC-39A. Nine of those were Falcon Heavy rockets with the remaining 72 being Falcon 9 rockets. There were also 11 Saturn 5 launches from this pad.

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, tail number B1077 in the SpaceX fleet, launched for a 12th time. It previously supported missions like the Crew-5 flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the GPS 3 Space Vehicle 06 geostationary satellite and a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft on the NG-20 mission to the International Space Station.

About 8.5 minutes after liftoff, B1077 touched down on the SpaceX droneship, ‘Just Read the Instructions.’ This was the 78th booster landing for JRTI and the 298th landing for SpaceX to date. It comes just days after B1062 achieved flight leader status with 20 total launches.

The 23 Starlink satellites on board added to the 5,809 currently on orbit, according to astronomer and expert orbital tracker, Jonathan McDowell. SpaceX launched 564 Starlink satellites so far in 2024 and this will be its 26th flight this year to add more.

The Falcon 9 rocket supporting the Starlink 6-51 mission soars into the skies above Florida as a Tui Airways plane cruises by from a safe distance. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now