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SpaceX Falcon 9 rises above two other rockets in amazing launch photo

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Starlink internet satellites on board lifts off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, on April 21, 2022. Alongside the launching rocket are two other boosters at the nearby NASA Kennedy Space Center preparing for space: a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft, readying to launch Crew-4 from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, and NASA’s moonbound Space Launch System rocket at Launch Complex 39B. (Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

A stunning SpaceX launch shot shows heavy traffic at two Florida spaceports last week.

At the center of the photo, which was taken on April 21, you can see a Falcon 9 rocket launching a batch of SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It's not the only rocket in view, however.

To the left is another SpaceX Falcon 9 in final preparations for launching the Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station for NASA. That mission successfully launched four astronauts Wednesday (April 27) from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

And at right is NASA's moonbound Artemis 1 mission, which features an Orion spacecraft atop a Space Launch System megarocket. NASA was putting the Artemis 1 stack through its paces in a "wet dress rehearsal" test at KSC's Pad 39B. Following several glitches, however, officials decided to roll the stack off the pad Monday (April 25) to do more diagnosis at KSC's nearby Vehicle Assembly Building.

Live updates: SpaceX's Crew-4 astronaut mission for NASA

NASA has spent several weeks juggling launch pads to get missions out to space. In early April, Artemis 1's wet dress rehearsal and the launch of the all-private Axiom Space Ax-1 mission to the space station were briefly scheduled to take place hours apart at adjacent launch pads at KSC, while Crew-4 waited in the wings for its spot. (Ax-1 ultimately took off on April 8 amid ongoing Artemis 1 troubleshooting.)

While weather or technical issues can lead to delays and conflicts between launches, Kathy Lueders, NASA's human spaceflight chief, told reporters in March that a busy spaceport is a "good problem to have," as it shows a healthy range of missions.

The constant lineup of missions is in contrast to a decade before, when NASA's space shuttle program was the main client of KSC facilities. After the shuttle retired in 2011, however, the commercial space industry's launching pace accelerated. 

NASA and SpaceX started launching astronaut missions again from KSC in 2020, following a near-decade of exclusive use of Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which lift off from Kazakhstan.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.