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SpaceX sends 46 Starlink satellites to orbit in consecutive launches
Another flock of Starlinks roar into Earth orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9. Photo by C&J Images.
SpaceX sends 46 Starlink satellites to orbit in consecutive launches
by Mark Moran
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 12, 2024

SpaceX on Sunday launched a total of 46 Starlink satellites into orbit in back-to-back launches in Florida and California. Against the backdrop of broken clouds and Florida swampland at dusk, SpaceX launched 23 Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, the latest in a series of Falcon 9 launches.

The engines roared to life and sent the rocket off the launch pad at 7:05 p.m. EDT, burning about 700,000 gallons of kerosene per second.

This was the 11th flight for the first stage booster which previously launched Crew-5, GPS III Space Vehicle 06, Inmarsat I6-F2, CRS-28, Intelsat G-37, NG-20, and four Starlink missions.

Following the booster rocket's separation, it landed on the drone ship "Just Read the Instructions," stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The rocket entered low-Earth orbit about 65 minutes after launch, where it deployed the internet satellites.

At 1:19 a.m. EDT, SpaceX confirmed the satellites had been deployed.

The second batch of satellites blasted off from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base on a Falcon 9 at 12:10 a.m. EDT.

The first stage landed on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship for its 17th successful launch and landing.

SpaceX was also simultaneously monitoring efforts to work with NASA to return the four members of the Crew-7 mission from the International Space Station.

Three U.S. astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut, part of Expedition 70, exchanged farewells to the Crew-8 team, which arrived at the ISS on March 3. The ceremony ended with a change of command during which European Space Agency astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, passed the ceremonial key to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko.

"You have now surpassed the previous record and are on your way to 1,000 days in space. I don't think I could leave the command in better hands," Mogensen said to Kononenko.

Undocking of Crew Dragon Endurance is set for 11:05 a.m. EDT Monday with splashdown anticipated for around 5:35 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

SpaceX has launched 22 orbital missions in 2024, and intends to launch 144 times in 2024.

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