SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites – making 180 delivered to orbit in less than two weeks – but the launch early Sunday morning was more notable as it set a key new record for the reusability of the Falcon 9 rocket. This marked the 10th flight of the first stage rocket thruster used for the launch, which sets a reuse record for SpaceX as a rocket thruster with the most successful mission under its belt.
The launch took place at 2:42 a.m. EDT, departing from Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX also successfully returned the booster to its drone in the Atlantic Ocean for a tenth successful rocket landing, which also makes it a record holder in this regard, and the possibility that it could fly again. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said it might be “possible” for a Falcon 9 booster to fly “100+” times with maintenance and component replacement.
This Falcon 9 has been on missions before, including the original Crew Dragon unmanned demo mission, SpaceX’s astronaut spacecraft, and seven previous Starlink launches. SpaceX has shown just how reusable its rockets are with its aggressive Starlink launch schedule, most of which have used rocket boosters that have already flown a number of missions, including other launches for the high-speed internet mega-constellation. .
Since SpaceX is both a launch supplier and a customer on Starlink, it’s actually crucial for the company to save as much money as possible on its frequent flights to build the network of low-earth orbit satellites. Reusing boosters is a key ingredient, and the cost savings add up over time. Musk a said previously that the economy is such that for its external customer flights it is roughly “equal” on the second use of a booster, and “ahead” in terms of costs by the third. During its Starlink launch program, SpaceX has set and repeatedly broken its own reusability records, indicating that a key way to reduce the costs of building its satellite infrastructure in space is using boosters whenever possible. proven in flight.
This is Starlink’s 27th launch so far, and SpaceX has another scheduled six days from now, May 15, with at least one more in the works for later this month. The company hopes its broadband network will be developed to the point where it will have global reach by the end of this year.