Update 1:06 am EST: SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is confirmed to lift off. The booster, B1058, landed on the drone ship minutes after launch.
SpaceX sent the Falcon 9 first-stage booster for a record 19th launch just after midnight following the expansion of its Starlink satellite suite. Lift off from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral at 12:33 am EST (0533 UTC).
First-stage B1058 was already the fleet leader with 18 previous missions and confirmed that position with the Starlink 6-32 mission, which will send 23 satellites into orbit. The booster first flew in May 2020 on the Demo-2 Crew Dragon mission carrying astronauts for the first time. It still bears the faded NASA 'worm' logo from that mission.
The liftoff time slipped more than an hour from the 11 a.m. EST (0400 UTC) window because the rocket didn't load directly onto the launch pad until about 7:35 p.m. EST (0035 UTC). SpaceX had backup launch opportunities until 3 a.m. EST (0800 UTC) Saturday.
The 45th Weather Squadron at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station said there was a 60-70 percent chance of perfect conditions for a launch at the opening of the window on Thursday. Thick cloud layer and violation of cumulus cloud rules are the primary concerns.
The Falcon 9 first stage landed aboard a 'Just Read the Instructions' drone eight and a half minutes after liftoff. Two burns of the rocket's second stage, which will put 23 second-generation Starlink satellites into orbit, occur one hour and five minutes after deployment.
SpaceX revealed this week that its Starlink Internet service has 2.3 million users in 70 countries. It has launched 5,604 satellites since 2019 According to statistics Compiled by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who maintains the Space Flight Database. As of December 20, 5,226 satellites are in orbit and 5,191 are operational.