Tuesday, June 18

SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites on 5th anniversary of its first dedicated Starlink flight – Spaceflight Now

A Falcon 9 rocket streaks across the sky over Central Florida amid the Starlink 6-63 mission on May 23, 2023. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now

Update 11:15 p.m. EDT: SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX completed its third Falcon 9 launch in less than 48 hours with a mission from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. As with its launch Wednesday night, SpaceX sent another 23 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit.

Either serendipitously or intentionally, the Starlink 6-63 mission fell on the fifth anniversary of the first dedicated Starlink launch, Starlink v0.9 on May 23, 2019. The launch times of the two missions are also coincidentally very similar. Thursday night’s flight lifted off at 10:45 p.m. EDT (0245 UTC) and its five-year counterpart launched at 10:30 p.m. EDT (0230 UTC).

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting Thursday’s launch, tail number B1077 in the SpaceX fleet launched for a 13th time. It previously supported the launches of the Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station, Northrop Grumman’s 20th Cygnus flight to the ISS (NG-20) and six prior Starlink missions.

A little more than eight minutes after liftoff, the booster landed on the SpaceX droneship, ‘Just Read the Instructions,’ out in the Atlantic Ocean. This was the 82nd booster landing for JRTI and the 312th booster landing to date for SpaceX.

Starlink by the numbers

Earlier this week, SpaceX marked a milestone of three million customers around the world as well as having active service across 99 countries, markets or territories. 

According to Starlink customer growth data tracked by Payload Space, SpaceX added roughly 700,000 customers since the fourth quarter of 2023.

SpaceX has launched quite a few Starlink missions to reach these numbers. In the five years since dedicated Starlink flights began, there have been 164 such missions with more than half happening since the start of 2023.

  • 2019 – 2
  • 2020 – 14
  • 2021 – 17*
  • 2022 – 34
  • 2023 – 63 (43 V2 Mini launches)
  • 2024 – 37*

The two asterisks represent a pair of missions that weren’t purely Starlink flights. Starlink 4-3, which launched on Dec. 2, 2021, included a pair of BlackSky Gen-2 satellites. Similarly, Starlink 7-16, which launched on March 18, 2024, is believed to have included a pair of Starshield satellites, though SpaceX has not confirmed this.

Last year, SpaceX also began launching its Starlink V2 Mini satellites as it works towards having a fully functional Starship rocket. To date, there have been 100 launches of the Starlink V2 Mini variety of satellites.

SpaceX launches the first dedicated flight of Starlink satellites on May 23, 2019. Image: Adam Bernstein

source: spaceflightnow.com