Late Saturday night, on October 22, 2023, the skies over Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida were lit up by another landmark SpaceX mission—Starlink Group 6-24. This wasn’t just another routine launch; this mission carried a record-setting payload of approximately 40,600 pounds, marking the heaviest ever lifted by a Falcon 9 rocket. The payload comprised 23 v2 Mini Starlink satellites which aimed to join SpaceX’s ever-growing satellite constellation network in space.
The Falcon 9 booster B1080, which has 4 previous launches, is also a record-setter in its own right. It has a remarkably quick turnaround time of just 56.05 days. Launched from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), the rocket’s first stage flawlessly executed a landing at sea on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas.” This represented the 238th successful booster recovery and an impressive 164th consecutive landing, reinforcing SpaceX’s industry-leading expertise in reusability.
SpaceX also recovered the fairing halves by another recovery vessel named “Doug.” These fairings are reused and save millions of dollars adding to the sustainability of each mission. Weather conditions were near perfect, with a 95% “go for launch” status that ensured the success of this mission.
Why does this launch matter? First, it marks the 266th launch of a Falcon 9, emphasizing its incredible reliability as a workhorse for SpaceX. Second, it’s the 198th mission that employed a flight-proven booster, showcasing SpaceX’s commitment to reusability. This mission, in fact, represents the 210th re-flight of a booster and the 76th just this year—figures that are mind-boggling in the traditional aerospace context.
This launch was also the 77th for SpaceX in 2023 and the 150th from SLC-40. Additionally, it marked the 170th orbital launch attempt of 2023, illustrating the rapid pace at which SpaceX is operating.
In summary, the Starlink Group 6-24 mission not only broke records but also demonstrates what is achievable when innovation meets sustainability. It added another chapter to SpaceX’s growing legacy in the aerospace industry.