KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – After ending last year with three launches in a row, SpaceX didn't leave space fans waiting long for the first launch of 2022.
A Falcon 9 rocket launched at 4:49 p.m. Eastern on Thursday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida with another batch of Starlink internet satellites.
Forecasters with the 45th Weather Squadron gave the liftoff an 80% chance of good weather. The prediction was on point as Falcon 9 soared into a blue evening sky with hardly a cloud in sight.
An unsettled pattern with cloud cover and rain pulled away from Florida's east coast Thursday, clearing the way for launch. It was a beautiful evening for a launch, remarked SpaceX Engineer Jessie Anderson.
You can watch a replay of the liftoff at the top of this story.
The rocket booster used for this Starlink launch was previously part of three spaceflights, including carrying four civilians to space on the Inspiration4 mission last year.
About 8 minutes after launch, the booster again returned to Earth, landing on SpaceX's A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX also planned to recover both halves of the rocket nose cone called fairings using another recovery ship named "Doug."
Forty-nine satellites inside the Falcon 9 nosecone launched to low-Earth orbit. The Starlink program is part of SpaceX's business to provide internet worldwide, even in remote locations, by using thousands of satellites.
Already Starlink has service available for customers in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Chile and Poland.
As SpaceX continues launching dozens of Starlink satellites at a time, it has expanded service to other areas.
Last year, SpaceX launched 31 missions overall, including Starlink dedicated launches. That number likely would have been higher if not for pandemic-related supply issues and delays.