SpaceX launches Starlink batch, paving way for ULA launch this weekend

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket boosted 48 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Thursday evening, making way for yet another rocket to launch from a nearby pad this weekend.

The 6:12 p.m. liftoff from Launch Complex 40 marked SpaceX’s 32nd Starlink mission so far, meaning the company has launched nearly 2,000 of the flat-packed, internet-beaming satellites to low-Earth orbit. A successful landing on the Shortfall of Gravitas drone ship shortly after liftoff acted as a nightcap.

Unlike some recent launches, the nearly 100% “go” status for weather meant visibility was excellent for Thursday’s launch. The light from Falcon 9’s second stage Merlin vacuum engine could be seen for several minutes after liftoff.

The Starlink satellites, meanwhile, were slated for deployment from the second stage about 90 minutes later.

The company recently said some 100,000 customers have either started receiving Starlink internet service or put down deposits for hardware, which involves $499 for the dish and wireless router. The service itself then costs $99 a month for internet speeds roughly comparable to some on-the-ground options.

This weekend: Atlas V

Folks who missed Falcon 9, however, won’t have to wait long for the next Florida mission: a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will vault off nearby Launch Complex 41 during a two-hour window that opens at 4:04 a.m. Sunday.

Conditions for that mission, according to the Space Force, are also favorable at 90% “go.”

“High pressure at the surface will build into Central Florida from the Gulf of Mexico late Thursday and remain over the area through late Saturday,” Space Launch Delta 45 forecasters said Thursday. “This will keep us dry for (Atlas V rollout) on Friday with light winds and pleasant temperatures.”

Equipped with four solid rocket boosters, the nearly 200-foot Atlas V rocket will be set to one of its most powerful configurations. The SRBs are also known for generating a streak of smoke across the sky.

Atlas V’s mission, known as Space Test Program-3 or STP-3, includes several payloads from a variety of organizations like the Space Force, NASA, and the National Nuclear Security Administration, to name a few. Its second stage will boost the mission through a complicated series of burns that will take over seven hours to complete.

For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.

Contact Emre Kelly at [email protected] or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly.

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