SpaceX reached another milestone early Sunday morning, recording the 10th flight using the first phase of the latest set of 60 Starling Internet satellites on the Falcon 9 rocket. This is the company’s 14th launch so far this year and the fifth aircraft in orbit in five weeks.
Just hours after SpaceX founder Elon Musk marked a personal milestone – presenting “Saturday Night Live” in New York – the company’s Florida launch team removed the Falcon 9, kicking off its “aircraft-proven” first-stage engines at 2:42 a.m. AD 1 hour flight.
“… three, two, one, zero, ignition and lifting”, is what SpaceX’s countdown commentator calls it. “Let’s go to Falcon for number 10!”
The previous nine aircraft had, since its arrival in March 2019, the Falcon 9’s first stage smoothness accelerated from Bat 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station into the sky, with a quiet roar overnight and a magnificent jet of nine Merlin engines coming out of it.
Two and a half minutes later, after launching the rocket out of low atmosphere, the first stage fell down and then flew to a critical point where it landed on a coastal droneship. It was Booster’s 10th successful landing, 62nd on SpaceX Sea and 83rd overall.
The second phase, meanwhile, carried out two tests of its single vacuum-rated Merlin, releasing all 60 Starlings to fly on its own an hour after it was thrown. SpaceX has now introduced 1,625 Starlinks since it began testing and deploying in 2018 as it builds a global network of high-speed commercial broadband stations.
The landing marked a major milestone for SpaceX and the Falcon 9, a rocket system that Musk claims can fly dozens of times with regular updates. No other company in the world has restored orbit-class rocket positions and is relaunching, although many are now developing reusable systems, following in the footsteps of SpaceX.
The first phase, launched on Sunday, flew serial number B1051, March 2, 2019, which helped launch an unmanned Crew Dragon capsule for NASA’s business team project.
The Canadian radar satellite, the Sirius XM radio relay station and the Sunday flight, helped launch seven Starling missions to 417 compact satellites, or 25% of the total launched to date.
Another Falcon 9 completed the first phase of nine flights, the most recent arriving last week, with the other two levels flying seven times each. Overall, SpaceX has now introduced 63 passengers with previously flown boosters.