SpaceX poised to break Space Shuttle pad record with Falcon 9 Starlink mission – Spaceflight Now


File: A Falcon 9 rocket stands ready to launch at pad 39A on a mission to deliver another 23 Starlink satellites to orbit. Image: Spaceflight Now.

SpaceX’s Falcon family of rockets is poised to exceed the total number of Space Shuttle missions from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The combination of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket launches currently matches the total number of shuttle flights seen at that pad.

With the Starlink 6-56 mission, which is set to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 UTC), SpaceX will hit 83 orbital launches from its KSC pad. That’s one more than the 82 shuttle launches that took place over the 30-year history of that program.

The SpaceX flights are a combination of 74 Falcon 9 launches and nine Falcon Heavy launches. Spaceflight Now will have live coverage beginning about an hour prior to liftoff.

The first stage booster supporting this mission, tail number B1083 in the SpaceX fleet, will be launching for a third time. It previously launched the Crew-8 mission to the International Space Station as well as the Starlink 6-48 mission.

A little more than eight minutes after liftoff, the booster will touchdown on the SpaceX droneship, ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas.’ This will mark the 68th booster landing for ASOG and the 305 first stage landing for SpaceX to date.

The mission will add another 23 Starlink satellites to the growing constellation. Prior to this launch, SpaceX has sent up 702 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit in 2024 over the course of 31 launches.

According to expert orbital tracker and astronomer Jonathan McDowell, there are currently 5,935 Starlink satellites on orbit out of a total of 6,350 that have been launched to date.

Roughly half a day after the Starlink 6-56 mission launches, SpaceX aims to add another 20 satellites to LEO with the Starlink 8-2 mission, lifting off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. That mission, set to launch at 7:48 p.m. PDT (10:48 p.m. EDT, 0248 UTC), includes 13 Starlink satellites that feature the Direct to Cell capability.

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