Mother Nature finally cooperated with SpaceX's latest Starlink mission.
SpaceX launched 54 Starlink broadband satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida Sunday (Sept. 18) at 8:18 p.m. EDT (0018 GMT on Sept. 19) after five consecutive days of bad-weather scrubs.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried the Starlink Group 4-34 satellites into low Earth orbit, deploying them as planned about 15.5 minutes after liftoff. Before that happened, however, the rocket's first stage came back to Earth and landed on SpaceX's Just Read the Instructions droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast. It was the sixth launch and landing for this particular booster, SpaceX wrote in a mission description.
Starlink is SpaceX's constellation of broadband satellites. The company has lofted more than 3,200 of the satellites into orbit so far. SpaceX is rapidly expanding the constellation, with launches happening pretty much every week — and sometimes more often than that.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently said he hopes to launch up to 100 SpaceX missions in 2023. The goal is, in part, to ramp up Starlink service as fast as possible for the remote customers that the company wants to serve.
SpaceX already has regulatory approval to launch 12,000 Starlink satellites. The company has also applied to an international regulator to send another 30,000 of the satellites into orbit.
The company is also expanding the types of customers that are accessing Starlink services.
SpaceX recently announced a collaboration with T-Mobile to beam broadband service directly to cell phones. Additionally, SpaceX signed with Royal Caribbean to offer Starlink on cruise ships, to improve Internet service at sea.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:45 p.m. ET on Sept. 13 with the new launch date of Sept. 14. SpaceX had planned to launch the mission on Sept. 13 but scrubbed the attempt due to weather. It was updated again at 8:50 p.m. ET on Sept. 14 with the new launch date of Sept. 15. Bad weather scrubbed planned attempts on Sept. 14, Sept. 15 and Sept. 16. Sept. 14 attempt as well. It was updated again on Sept. 15, after bad weather forced another scrub. This story was also updated at 8:13 p.m. EDT on Sept. 16 to reflect a new launch time, and at 9:15 p.m. EDT Sept. 16 regarding the scrub. This story was updated again at 6:55 p.m. EDT Sept. 17 with a scrub and new launch opportunity. It was updated a final time on Sept. 18 with news of a successful launch and rocket landing.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace