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What to know: SpaceX's Friday Starlink launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

Florida Today 3/24/2023 Emre Kelly, Florida Today

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Update: Liftoff of Falcon 9 at 11:43 a.m. EDT! The 230-foot rocket successfully carried 56 more Starlink internet satellites to low-Earth orbit after liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, then turned around for a drone ship landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

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SpaceX's next Falcon 9 mission, set to fly the latest batch of Starlink internet satellites, will help kick off the weekend when it launches from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Friday.

Teams have more than three hours to launch the rocket from Launch Complex 40: the first opportunity during the window opens at 11:33 a.m. EDT. Should they be needed, two more opportunities – 1:14 p.m. and 2:55 p.m. – will are available.

What's the weather forecast?

Conditions are expected to be nearly perfect, according to the Space Force's latest forecast: greater than 95% "go" during the window.

"High pressure stretching into Central Florida dominates through Friday, bringing favorable weatherwith near zero concerns for the primary launch day," Space Launch Delta 45 forecasters said Thursday, adding that upper-level winds and drone ship conditions were also "low-risk."

For spectators, visibility is expected to be good – 7 miles – for Falcon 9's southern-trajectory flight. Temperatures should hover around 77 degrees at 70% humidity.

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What's flying on Falcon 9?

Packed in the 230-foot rocket's payload fairing is a batch of 56 Starlink internet satellites. Known as Starlink 5-5, this mission marks the 76th dedicated launch for the internet constellation, which operates about 350 miles above Earth.

All told, SpaceX has launched more than 4,000 Starlink satellites since flights began accelerating in 2019. About 3,750 are still operational, according to a database maintained by Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

How can I see it? Will there be a Cape Canaveral landing?

Spectators should note this launch will fly through the southerly corridor, meaning Falcon 9 will orient itself toward the southeast and follow Florida's east coast.

At T-plus 2 minutes and 31 seconds, stage separation will allow the first stage booster to target an Atlantic Ocean drone ship landing, so the Space Coast will not experience sonic booms this time. The Shortfall of Gravitas drone ship will host the recovery before returning to Port Canaveral before the end of the weekend.

What's next after Starlink?

Beyond Friday's launch, the Space Coast's manifest remains mostly open until April. Another Starlink mission could fly from the Cape no earlier than Wednesday, March 29, but that remains unconfirmed. Otherwise, April promises to be fairly busy with at least three Falcon 9 launches and the second-to-last Delta IV Heavy, United Launch Alliance's three-core rocket built primarily for national defense missions.

If schedules hold, Delta IV Heavy will fly a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload from the Cape's Launch Complex 37 no earlier than Thursday, April 20.

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Contact Emre Kelly at Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: What to know: SpaceX's Friday Starlink launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

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