Falcon 9 Starlink Flight from SpaceX Beats the Space Shuttle Pad Record

SpaceX’s Falcon family of rockets surpassed the overall number of Space Shuttle missions from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s iconic Launch Complex 39A with a launch on Wednesday afternoon. The total number of shuttle flights observed at the pad was surpassed by the launch of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

With the Starlink 6-56 mission, which took off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 2:42 p.m. EDT (1842 UTC), they achieved the milestone, making 83 orbital flights from SpaceX’s KSC pad. Over the program’s 30-year lifetime, there have been one more shuttle launches than that.

Nine Falcon Heavy launches and seventy-four Falcon 9 launches make up the SpaceX flights.

A third launch was made by the first stage rocket supporting this flight, SpaceX tail number B1083. It has already launched the Starlink 6-48 mission and the Crew-8 mission to the International Space Station.

After taking off, the booster landed on the SpaceX droneship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” a little over eight minutes later. This was SpaceX’s 305th first-stage landing and ASOG’s 68th booster landing overall.

The commander of the upcoming Polaris Dawn mission, Jared Isaacman, responded to talks of the mission on X, the former name of Twitter, a few times after the booster landing. The remarks stoked rumors that B1083 may serve as the rocket for Isaacman and his three crew members’ Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft launch.

Vice president of the Dragon program Stu Keech mentioned that Crew Dragon Resilience was already in the Sunshine State, getting ready for the launch, at a Spaces event on X to discuss the Polaris Dawn mission. The first-ever civilian spacewalk will be conducted as the mission’s centerpiece.

“It’s going through its prelaunch processing phase and the hardware is moving forward and on track for that early summer launch,” Keech stated.

Expanding Constellation

The mission on Wednesday afternoon added twenty-three more Starlink satellites to the expanding constellation. Before this launch, throughout the course of 31 missions in 2024, SpaceX has sent 702 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.

As of May 6, out of the 6,350 Starlink satellites that have been launched to far, 5,935 were in orbit, according to astronomer and specialist orbital tracker Jonathan McDowell.

With the Starlink 8-2 mission, SpaceX attempted to bring an additional 20 satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO). The mission was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, approximately thirty minutes after the Starlink 6-56 mission. The 13 Starlink satellites on that mission—which is scheduled to launch at 7:48 p.m. PDT (10:48 p.m. EDT, 0248 UTC)—have the Direct to Cell capability.

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