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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off into low-lying clouds above Kennedy Space Center early Thursday, taking with it the company’s latest batch of 60 Starlink internet satellites and completing its eighth mission to date.

Just 15 seconds after Falcon 9 lifted off from pad 39A at 3:24 a.m., clouds obscured views of its northeastern trajectory and subsequent landing SpaceX’s 75th to date on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship. The layer of clouds was thin enough to not trigger a violation of weather rules specifically designed for Falcon 9.

Sixty-five minutes after liftoff, all 60 Starlink satellites were deployed to low-Earth orbit, where each spacecraft will use onboard thrusters to raise their orbits to about 350 miles. The successful deployment means SpaceX has launched more than 1,200 of the internet-beaming satellites to date.

Thursday’s launch was unique for a Starlink mission in that the attempt included two windows. If the 3:24 a.m. attempt had been scrubbed for non-critical reasons, teams could have then targeted a second opportunity just over two hours later at 5:42 a.m.

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In the event of a launch abort, Falcon 9’s supercooled propellants need to be drained. Since the fueling process always takes 35 minutes, short windows translate to SpaceX not having enough time to try more than once. A second window, approved and supported by the Space Force, gives SpaceX two chances in one day instead of dealing with multi-day delays.

While some missions have hours-long or even multiple windows per day, Starlink flights must take off at their designated liftoff times with little-to-no wiggle room.

Thursday’s launch marked the sixth for the Space Coast this year, all of which have been hosted by Falcon 9. SpaceX could fly even more Starlink satellites as early as late Sunday night according to the latest maritime warnings issued by the Department of Defense, but neither the company nor the Space Force have confirmed the timeline.

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Contact Emre Kelly at [email protected] or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly. Support space journalism by subscribing at

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the company’s 20th batch of Starlink internet satellites from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, March 4, 2021.

Florida Today

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