June 21, 2024
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SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites on the fifth 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 pm 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. Similar to its launch Wednesday night, SpaceX sent another 23 Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit.

Whether by chance or intention, the Starlink 6-63 mission coincided with the fifth anniversary of Starlink's first dedicated launch, Starlink v0.9, on May 23, 2019. The launch times of the two missions are also coincidentally very similar. . Thursday night's flight took off at 10:45 pm EDT (0245 UTC) and its five-year-old counterpart launched at 10:30 pm EDT (0230 UTC).

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

Just over eight minutes after liftoff, the booster landed on the SpaceX spacecraft, 'Just Read the Instructions,' in the Atlantic Ocean. This was the 82nd boost landing for JRTI and the 312th boost landing to date for SpaceX.

Starlink in numbers

Earlier this week, SpaceX marked a milestone with three million customers worldwide, in addition to having active service in 99 countries, markets or territories.

According to Starlink customer growth data tracked by Payload Space, SpaceX added approximately 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 and more than half have taken place since the beginning of 2023.

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

The two asterisks represent a couple of missions that were not purely Starlink flights. Starlink 4-3, which launched on December 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, although SpaceX has not confirmed this.

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

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

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