Space is important to us and that's why we're working to bring you top coverage of the industry and Florida launches. Journalism like this takes time and resources. Please support it with a subscription here.
SpaceX lofted another batch of its Starlink internet-beaming satellites to orbit Saturday evening after an on-time liftoff from Florida.
The Space Coast’s 42nd launch of the year saw the 230-foot Falcon 9 rocket vault from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station‘s Launch Complex 40 at 7:32 p.m. EDT. It marked the 62nd dedicated Starlink mission and the 181st overall flight for the company, 177 of which have been hosted by Falcon 9.
The batch of 52 satellites deployed about 15 minutes after liftoff and joined the more than 3,300 that now make up the constellation in low-Earth orbit.
About nine minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9 first stage somersaulted and landed on the "A Shortfall of Gravitas" drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Once returned to Port Canaveral in a few days, SpaceX will collect the booster for refurbishment and reuse on a future flight.
The launch may be the last the Space Coast experiences before Tropical Storm Ian clears the state next week. The storm is predicted to become a major hurricane and impact Florida's west coast as early as Tuesday evening, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Another NASA delay: NASA officials call off next week's scheduled launch attempt
Fueling Test: NASA conducts Artemis I fueling test at KSC
Just 77 minutes before the Falcon 9 flight, United Launch Alliance launched its last West Coast Delta IV Heavy rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Only two more will fly, both from Cape Canaveral. One in 2023 and then the final flight of the rocket in 2024 before it's retired.
Due to impacts from the storm, NASA announced on Saturday morning it had waved off its next opportunity to launch the Space Launch System rocket and Artemis I mission. It was scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 27.
At nearby pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center, NASA teams were preparing for a possible rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building, should that decision be made. NASA said Saturday, "Engineers deferred a final decision about the roll to Sunday to allow for additional data gathering and analysis."
A backup opportunity to launch Artemis I is available Sunday, Oct. 2, but that will depend on the storm and whether or not NASA decides to roll back to the VAB. If so, that could push the launch into late October or beyond.
In that case, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket could be the next to launch from Florida. That mission is slated to launch the SES-20 and SES-21 commercial communications satellites for Luxembourg-based operator SES. It's targeted for no earlier than 5:36 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 30. It is yet to be determined if that date could be impacted by Tropical Storm Ian.
For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.
Jamie Groh is a space reporter for Florida Today. You can contact her at JGroh@floridatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AlteredJamie.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Saturday's SpaceX launch sent more Starlink satellites to orbit