Launching through a blanket of low-hanging clouds and light mist, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket thundered into the sky over Florida’s Space Coast early Thursday and delivered 60 more Starlink internet satellites to orbit. The rocket’s first stage touched down on SpaceX’s floating landing platform in the Atlantic Ocean to complete its eighth trip to space and back.
After a terminal countdown abort Sunday night, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with the next 60 Starlink internet satellites Thursday at 3:24 a.m. EST (0824 GMT). The Falcon 9 took off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, and its first stage booster successfully landed on SpaceX’s offshore drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Launch companies and U.S. Space Force range officials at Cape Canaveral are reassessing long-standing weather rules, looking at beefing up rocket defenses against lightning, and considering strategies to prepare for two different launch windows on a given day to guard against weather delays, something SpaceX may demonstrate with a Falcon 9 launch early Thursday.
SpaceX will not be making a Falcon 9 launch attempt Tuesday night. The next opportunities to launch the Falcon 9 with 60 Starlink satellites from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center will come at 3:24 a.m. EST (0824 GMT) or 5:42 a.m. EST (0942 GMT) Thursday. This change in launch time suggests SpaceX will target a different orbital plane within the Starlink constellation.
A senior SpaceX official said this week that “heat damage” led to the failure of a Falcon 9 booster during a landing attempt Feb. 15, but the company will press on with more launches and will likely surpass the 10-flight threshold on one of its reusable rockets soon. The next Falcon 9 launch, using a booster flying on its eighth mission, is scheduled for liftoff from Florida with 60 more Starlink internet satellites Sunday night.
One of the two Falcon 9 rockets SpaceX planned to take off in a span of less than five hours earlier this week will remain grounded indefinitely, preventing Cape Canaveral from hosting two launches on the same day for the first time in decades. But the military-run Eastern Range was ready for the back-to-back missions, and probably won’t have to wait long for the next chance for a launch doubleheader.