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

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

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

The Falcon 9 rocket's liftoff occurred at 5:26 p.m. EDT (2126 UTC), opening a roughly four-hour launch window.

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

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

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting the mission, tail number B1077 in the SpaceX fleet, launched for the 12th time. It previously supported missions such as the Crew-5 flight for NASA's Commercial Crew program, the GPS3 Space Vehicle 06 geostationary satellite, and the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft on the NG-20 mission to the International Space Station.

About 8.5 minutes later, B1077 touched down with the SpaceX drone ship, 'read instructions.' This is JRTI's 78th booster landing and SpaceX's 298th. This comes days after the B1062 achieved aircraft-leader status with 20 total missiles.

The 23 Starlink satellites on board join the 5,809 satellites currently in orbit, says Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and expert orbital observer. SpaceX has launched 564 Starlink satellites so far in 2024, and this is its 26th flight this year.

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A Falcon 9 rocket, supporting the Starlink 6-51 mission, flies in the sky above Florida as a Tui Airways plane cruises to a safe distance. Image: Michael Caine/Space Travel Now

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