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Weather could foil an early morning SpaceX Falcon 9 launch set for Thursday

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Posted at 4:20 PM, Jan 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-24 17:20:20-05

(FLORIDA TODAY) — The fifth launch of the year from Florida's Space Coast is set to liftoff early Thursday morning, though the weather could foil those plans.

Space Force forecasters called for a 70% chance of "go" conditions ahead of a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch during a roughly two-and-a-half-hour launch window from 4:02 - 6:24 a.m.

If SpaceX can launch from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Thursday, the Falcon 9 will carry 54 of the company's internet-beaming Starlink satellites to join the more than 3,500 already in orbit.

After liftoff, the rocket's first stage will touch down on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. There will be no local sonic booms with this one.

The primary concerns for liftoff on Thursday are thick clouds and lingering conditions from a passing cold front that could enable potential rocket-triggered lightning — a phenomenon that could occur by launching a rocket into an electrically charged atmosphere.

"Unfortunately, the boundary will be very close or over the Spaceport during the launch window early Thursday morning," a report released by the Space Force's 45th Weather Squadron on Tuesday explained.

Conditions look more promising at 90% "go" for a backup attempt on Friday around the same time, should SpaceX need it.

There's a good chance that SpaceX could squeak in another Starlink Falcon 9 mission next week before the end of the month, but a formal request for a launch date has not yet been solidified.