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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket kicked off a picture-perfect Florida weekend on Friday, taking a batch of Starlink satellites to orbit in the process.
Just as the workday wrapped up at 5:27 pm EDT, the 230-foot rocket soared into mostly clear skies above Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Launch Complex 40. Nine minutes later, the 162-foot first stage booster touched down on the Just Read the Instructions drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean and marked SpaceX’s 117th recovery to date.
Friday’s launch was 44th such mission for the Starlink internet constellation operating some 350 miles above Earth’s surface. It was also the Space Coast’s 17th launch of the year and keeps the cadence firmly in line with the goal of launching once a week.
While nearly every SpaceX launch includes major milestones of some kind these days, Friday’s actually ended up being the fastest turnaround for a Falcon 9 refurbishment. This particular booster last launched the Axiom-1 mission with four private astronauts on April 8, meaning SpaceX teams were able to recover, refurbish, and re-launch the rocket in a record-breaking 21-day span.
That booster has now flown six separate missions.
More:SpaceX launches NASA astronauts from Florida for six-month ISS mission
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The company’s network of internet-beaming satellites is slowly becoming more and more lucrative, a goal that founder Elon Musk has said is critical to paying for more distant journeys to the moon and Mars. Hawaiian Airlines this week announced it had selected Starlink to begin providing free, high-speed connectivity to passengers starting next year.
“Guests will be able to stream content, play games live with friends on the ground, work and collaborate in real-time, plan their Hawai’i vacation, or share their special island moments on social media,” the airline said in a statement . “Connecting to the internet will be seamless when guests walk on board, without registration pages or payment portals.”
Musk hopes the constellation becomes profitable enough to pay for development of the next-generation Starship vehicle that will eventually fly cargo and people from Florida.
Looking ahead, SpaceX is next on the books: a Falcon 9 rocket is slated to launch the 45th Starlink mission, this time from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A, on Thursday, May 5. Liftoff is expected around 6:15 am EDT, which could translate to a picturesque launch thanks to sunrise about 30 minutes later. If skies are clear, spectators could see the famous “jellyfish effect” caused by the rocket’s exhaust plume high in the atmosphere.
That mission will also include a drone ship landing. A Space Force-issued weather forecast is expected early next week.
For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.
Contact Emre Kelly at email@example.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly.
Launch Thursday, May 5
- Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
- Mission: 45th Starlink mission
- Launch Time: Around 6:15 am EDT
- Launch Pad: 39A at Kennedy Space Center
- Weather: Forecast expected Monday
- Landing: Drone ship
Visit floridatoday.com/space at 5 am Thursday, May 5, for real-time updates and video.