Farewell 1059, Starlink L19 Lights Up the Space Coast

February 15th 2021, 10:59 PM Est atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40

Long exposure of Starlink L19. Photo by: Zac Shaul – NHS

Love may have been in the air last night, but SpaceX’s Falcon 9 carrying sixty more of their Starlink Satellites stayed home. With a Valentines day launch set the night before many came out as the weather cleared along the space coast to see a candle light up the sky. That was not to be the case however as about an hour before lift off, the launch provider called a delay due to unfavorable weather conditions. With stars emerging at the launch site we imagine they were talking about the recovery zone as radar showed heavy lightening in that area. Rough storms had passed over the state all day making the forecasted 40% GO for launch seem a dim reality. When the rain and clouds subsided our chances for the ultimate valentine seemed possible. Sadly that would not be the case. Tonight however we did see the launch take place as all nine of the Falcon 9’s Merlin 1D engines ignited and lit up the skies over Cape Canaveral.

Photo by: Derek Wise – NHS

At 10:59 pm, SpaceX Falcon 9 booster 1059 set to the skies for it’s last time. Seemingly fitting after the lovers holiday, many hearts were broken this evening, after jettisoning it’s second stage carrying the sixty Starlink satellites it set it’s sights on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” back at the landing zone. Booster 1059 never made it there. It is still unclear at this time what exactly went wrong but we can safely assume the booster crash landed somewhere near by in the Atlantic Ocean. Tonight’s unlucky booster, 1059 has now made it’s sixth and final flight, and was the third most flown booster in the launching fleet for SpaceX. First launching in December of 2019 for the CRS-19 mission. Next up was the CRS-20 mission where SpaceX launched it’s final first generation Cargo Dragon capsule. That was back in March of 2020. Since then it flew Starlink L8 in June, SAOCOM-1B in August, and lastly the NROL-108 mission in December as the final rocket launch of 2020.

Tonight’s launch, or L19 coming just after the 18th launch and just before the 17th launch. That’s right Starlink L17 is still sitting at LC-39A. With rumored engine issues SpaceX has said they plan to launch that booster, 1049 later this coming week. Weather all around the state has been ugly the last twenty-four hours as severe storms made their way coast to coast. The forecast issued by the 45th Space wing gave us 60% chances of favorable weather conditions, and yet again the company found a bit of luck being able to get the latest batch of their globally providing internet company’s satellites up and away.

booster 1059 on the pad just before lift off. Photo by: Kyle Montgomery – NHS

The fifth launch for the company this year and what would have been the 75th overall landing on the deck of one of their autonomous drone ships about 633km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. This is that drone ship’s 44th attempted booster landing, the 108th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket and the first booster lost since March of 2020.

Starlink L19 Launch Video By Derek Wise – NHS