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NASA delays space station crew rotation flight, makes way for SpaceX Starlink launch

SpaceX rocket launches 50 Starlink satellites
SpaceX rocket launches 50 Starlink satellites into orbit 00:24

Taking advantage of a weather delay for NASA's next space station flight, SpaceX fired off another 23 Starlink internet satellites Thursday in a hazy leap day launch from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It was the California rocket builder's 19th flight so far this year.

Earlier in the day, NASA called off plans for the 12:04 a.m. EST Friday launch of three astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the nearby Kennedy Space Center.

Spaceflight Now photographers, center, and other photojournalists capture launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 23 Starlink internet satellites as it climbed away from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Thursday.  William Harwood/CBS News

It's the first of two planned crew rotation flights by NASA and the Russian space agency to replace five of the lab's seven long-duration crew members.

But the NASA launch was delayed because of high winds and rough seas along the Atlantic Ocean trajectory where the crew could be forced to splash down in an abort. Liftoff is now targeted for Saturday at 11:16 p.m. local time, weather permitting.

SpaceX took advantage of the slip to squeeze in the Starlink launch while still preserving the 48-hour spacing between flights required by NASA to allow time for data analysis to make sure any issues that might crop up in the first flight are identified before the second.

The Starlink flight, the 12th so far this year, got underway at 10:30 a.m. local time, with liftoff from pad 40 at the Space Force station. One hour and five minutes later, the stack of 23 Starlink internet satellites was released, boosting the total number launched to date to 5,919.

The rocket's first stage, making its 11th flight, landed on a SpaceX droneship in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the launch site about eight-and-a-half minutes after liftoff. SpaceX has now completed 278 successful booster recoveries, the last 204 in a row. SpaceX

Below are mission details at a glance:

Mission: Starlink 6-40
Payload: 23 Starlink internet satellites
Launch site: Launch complex 40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Launch date/time: 02/29/24, 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 UTC)

Total Falcon 9 launches to date: 304
Total Falcon Heavy launches to date: 9
Total Super Heavy/Starship launches to date: 2
Falcon 9/Heavy launches this year: 19 (19 F9s, 0 FHs)
Successful Falcon 9/Heavy launches in a row: 294

Starlink launches to date: 144 (135 dedicated flights, 9 mixed payloads)
Starlink launches this year: 12
Starlink satellites launched to date: 5,919
Starlinks presumed to be working: 5,442 (not counting the latest flight)
Starlinks launched so far this year: 269
Payloads launched to orbit this year: 281

Starlink 6-40 booster: 1076, 11th flight
Successful droneship landings to date: 216
Successful booster landings overall: 278
Successful booster landings in a row: 204

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