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SpaceX launches Starlink satellites after string of scrubs

By
Paul Brinkmann & Don Jacobson
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen at Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on August 31. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen at Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on August 31. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 6 (UPI) -- After repeated delays due to weather and other problems, SpaceX on Tuesday successfully launched a shipment of 60 Starlink communications satellites from Florida.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifted off about 7:30 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Multiple previous launches had been postponed since Sept. 17.

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The flight's reusable booster landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean following the launch.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk had tweeted that he would travel to Florida to review the launch following a scrub Friday night he said was due to an "unexpected pressure rise" in a gas generator. The launch was postponed again Monday morning due to rainstorms in the area.

"We will need to make a lot of improvements to have a chance of completing 48 launches next year!" Musk tweeted. "We're doing a broad review of launch site, propulsion, structures, avionics, range & regulatory constraints this weekend."

The delays were mirrored by a string of similar scrubs in recent weeks for its main rival, United Launch Alliance, which is trying to send a spy satellite into orbit for the Defense Department.

ULA also has cited weather and mechanical issues with ground systems for the delays that have kept its powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket, carrying the spy satellite, on the launch pad.

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"There's a thousand ways that a launch can go wrong, and only one way it can go right," Siva Baradvaj, SpaceX space operations engineer, said during a live broadcast for a launch attempt last week.

That attempt was scrubbed due to a sensor reading on ground systems, but Baradvaj noted that the rocket and spacecraft were in good shape.

Tuesday's launch will ultimately grow the number of Starlink satellites in orbit to well over 700. More have been launched, but at least 27 have deorbited and burned up, according to astronomers.

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While SpaceX increases the number of spacecraft in orbit, it also is testing the system with hundreds of Internet users in North America, according to documents SpaceX filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

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