SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites on Falcon 9 flight from Cape Canaveral

A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, carrying 23 Starlink satellites up to low Earth orbit on April 28, 2024. Image: Adam Bernstein/Spaceflight Now

Following the historic launch of a pair of the European Commission’s Galileo satellites, SpaceX launched another batch of its own Starlink high-speed internet satellites. The Sunday evening Falcon 9 launch marked the 29th dedicated launch of Starlink satellites in 2024.

Liftoff of the Starlink 6-54 mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) happened at 6:08 p.m. EDT (2208 UTC).

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, tail number B1076 in the SpaceX fleet, launched for a 13th time. It previously supported the launches of Ovzon 3, Intelsat IS-40e, SpaceX’s 26th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-26) flight and six Starlink missions.

A little more than eight minutes after liftoff, B1076 landed on the SpaceX droneship, ‘Just Read the Instructions.’ This was the 80th landing on JRTI and the 301st booster landing to date.

In a social media post, Kiko Dontchev, SpaceX’s vice president of launch, noted that the team completed a five-hour turnaround of JRTI at Port Canaveral between the droneship arriving and its departure back out to support the Starlink 6-54 mission.

The 23 Starlink satellites add to the 5,874 currently on orbit, according to the numbers tabulated on April 24 by astronomer and expert orbital tracker, Jonathan McDowell. Prior to this launch, 633 Starlink satellites have been launched in 2024.

On Wednesday, SpaceX announced that the Federated States of Micronesia, an island country in the Pacific Ocean, east of Australia, was the latest country to be added to the list of nations where Starlink service is available.

Dragon departure

The Starlink 6-54 launch comes just hours after the SpaceX Cargo Dragon undocked from the International Space Station to begin its roughly 36-hour journey to splashdown off the coast of Florida. Undocking occurred at 1:10 p.m. EDT (1710 UTC).

The Tuesday morning splashdown will bring the CRS-30 mission to a conclusion. It was docked to the ISS for more than 30 days and will return with more than 4,000 pounds of science experiments.

The operation is also another important step towards the launch of Boeing’s first crewed mission to the orbiting outpost using its Starliner spacecraft.

Before that launch can take place, SpaceX needs to relocate its Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft from the forward-facing port to the space-facing port of the Harmony module. That maneuver is set to take place on May 2.