SpaceX presses on for rare Leap Day Falcon 9 launch after Crew-8 astronauts delay – Spaceflight Now

In the fourth Leap Day launch in history, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Image: Adam Bernstein/Space Flight Now

SpaceX made the most of a weather delay in launching an astronaut from Florida's Space Coast. The company launched a group of Starlink satellites from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Thursday morning.

The Leap Day launch of the Starlink 6-40 mission added 23 more Starlink Version 2 Mini satellites to the growing low-Earth orbit constellation. A Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1530 UTC).

This was the fourth time in history that an orbital launch took place on February 29. Japan, Russia and China can also claim to have launched on a day that only happens every four years.

About 8.5 minutes after liftoff, the first stage booster, tail number B1076, landed on the Read Only Instructions drone, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. This was the 11th flight of this booster and the 73rd landing of this drone.

The launch was only possible on Thursday due to bad weather in the Atlantic Ocean in the far north. Weather forecasters at the launch predicted that if a mid-flight abort was necessary during the Crew-8 mission's ascent to the International Space Station, conditions would be unsafe for the rescue crew and astronauts inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

NASA and SpaceX have set a new target launch date for this mission of March 2.

SpaceX was able to launch its 12th Starlink mission of the year, despite some cloudy conditions around Florida's Space Coast on February 29, 2024. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now

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