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SpaceX set for Sunday night launch on southerly trajectory

Falcon 9 rocket on the Starlink 6-58 mission will carry 23 internet satellites

By Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel
Published: May 12, 2024, 1:13pm

SpaceX has lined up another Starlink mission from the Space Coast on Sunday night on a southerly trajectory that will hug the Florida coast.

A Falcon 9 rocket on the Starlink 6-58 mission carrying 23 of the internet satellites is targeting an 8:53 p.m. liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 during four-hour window that runs through 12:11 a.m. Monday. More backup opportunities come from 7:45 to 11:45 p.m. Monday.

Space Launch Delta 45’s weather squadron forecasts an 85 percent chance for good conditions, which falls to 70 percent in the event of a 24-hour delay. A low-pressure system forming Sunday in the western Gulf of Mexico is expected to create upper-level cloudiness on the Space Coast, which could violate the Thick Cloud Layers Rule for launch, according to the forecast.

The southerly trajectory will take the rocket down the Florida coast so its flight and booster separation may be more visible in South Florida, especially with sunset at 8 p.m.

The first-stage booster is flying for the 15th time and will attempt a recovery landing downrange in the Atlantic on the droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas.

This is the 36th launch from the Space Coast this year and 25th from Cape Canaveral, with the other 11 coming from Kennedy Space Center. All but two of the launches have been flown by SpaceX.

The other two were from United Launch Alliance, which is aiming for its third launch of the year no earlier than Friday, when an Atlas V rocket carrying the CST-100 Starliner could launch on the Crew Flight Test mission carrying NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to the International Space Station.

The duo flew back to Houston this weekend from the crew quarters at Kennedy Space Center but will remain in quarantine, according to NASA.

If the rocket flies, it would be the third of up to six human spaceflights from Florida this year, with SpaceX having already launched the private Axiom 3 mission as well as Crew-8 to the International Space Station for NASA.

The other three are also for SpaceX, with the private Polaris Dawn mission with billionaire Jared Isaacman aiming for early summer, Crew-9 as early as August and Axiom 4 as early as October.

The U.S. has not had this many orbital launches since 2001, when the Space Shuttle Program was active and also flew six times.

The Starliner mission’s goal is to complete certification of the spacecraft so Boeing can join SpaceX with rotational missions of crew to the International Space Station, with each flying once a year, trading off duties every six months. Boeing has contracted to perform six of those missions, with the first flying as early as February 2025 if the Crew Flight Test mission goes well.