SpaceX launches 23rd set of Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral

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SpaceX launches 23rd set of Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket left behind its pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station early Wednesday, taking the company’s 23rd batch of Starlink internet satellites to low-Earth orbit.

The 4:28 a.m. liftoff from Launch Complex 40 marked the sixth flight for the booster, which teed itself up for a subsequent seventh mission after successfully landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship eight minutes later. Just over an hour after launch, meanwhile, the second stage successfully deployed all 60 internet-beaming satellites to orbit.

The launch was originally reported as targeting 30 minutes later, or 4:58 a.m., but an update from SpaceX 12 hours before liftoff noted the window’s shift.

Wednesday’s success means SpaceX has launched nearly 1,400 of the flat-packed Starlink satellites to orbits of about 350 miles above Earth. Though still far short of the goal of tens of thousands, the constellation has already begun serving customers in North America with speeds roughly equivalent to entry-level connections offered on the Space Coast, for example.

SpaceX said its next steps are expansions into the United Kingdom and portions of Continental Europe, like Germany, this year.

So far in 2021, all nine of the Space Coast’s launches have been hosted by Falcon 9. While SpaceX is again on the Eastern Range’s calendar for its next mission – teams are targeting no earlier than April 22 for the launch of Crew-2 with four astronauts – it remains to be seen if another Starlink flight will squeeze its way in between.

Though Florida is behind schedule on achieving the long-sought-after goal of hosting 50 launches a year, 2021 so far appears to be on pace to outstrip 2020’s 31 missions.

For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly. Support space journalism by subscribing at floridatoday.com/specialoffer/.

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