SpaceX continued a busy weekend with the launch of another batch of Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station late Saturday night. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 occurred at 11:00 p.m. EST (0400 UTC).
Overcome weather hurdles, the Starlink 6-31 mission marked its second launch in less than 40 hours. U.S. Space Force meteorologists were tracking a 45-percent chance of acceptable conditions for launch with the potential of rocket-trigger lightning from thick cloud layers and cumulus clouds being the primary concern. They also listed a low to moderate risk of upper level wind shear posing a threat.
SpaceX pushed back this launch from Friday night. It did not provide an explanation but the Falcon 9 hadn’t made an appearance at the launch pad as of Saturday morning.
The first-stage booster for this the launch, tail number B1078, is making its sixth flight after first launching the Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station on March 2, 2023. It also launched the O3b mPOWER 3 and 4 satellites as well as three Starlink missions.
About eight-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, it will land on the droneship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” out in the Atlantic Ocean. According to SpaceX, this will be the 251st landing of an orbital class rocket after the Korea 425 mission’s landing at Vandenberg Space Force Base’s Landing Zone 4 claimed the distinction of landing number 250 on Friday.
The recovery vessel named “Doug” will retrieve the payload fairing halves after they splash down.
The 23 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink network will be deployed from the second stage of the Falcon 9 about one hour, five minutes into flight.
The launch from pad 40 isn’t the only SpaceX activity on the Space Coast. Beginning Saturday morning, crews were busy rolling out a Falcon Heavy rocket from the hangar at Launch Complex 39A to the pad.
The operation paves the way for a static fire test on Sunday in anticipation of the USSF-52 mission launch scheduled for a week later on Dec. 10. It will be the first time the Falcon Heavy has been used to launch the U.S. military’s X-37B spaceplane. A launch window has not been publicly announced.