On Tuesday night, SpaceX successfully launched another batch of the company’s internet-from-space Starlink satellites to orbit using a highly space-hardened Falcon 9 rocket for the job. This launch marked the rocket’s seventh flight to space and back – the first time SpaceX has flown such a spicy vehicle into orbit.
Falcon 9 started at 21:13 ET from SpaceX’s launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with 60 Starlink satellites in tow. After a quick trip into space, the first phase of the Falcon 9 – the bulk of the vehicle containing main engines and most of the fuel ̵
Prior to this flight, the Falcon 9 had boosted two communications satellites to orbit two separate missions, and SpaceX had also used the vehicle to launch four separate Starlink launches. It wasn’t just the rocket that had either flown before. The rocket’s nose cone, which surrounds the satellites during the climb to space, was also used before for previous flights. One half of the nose cone – or payload cover – had flowed once before, while the other half had flown twice before this launch.
At present, SpaceX has made these launch and landing routines a fairly regular sight out of Florida, with each new mission adding numbers to the company’s resume. Last night’s launch was remarkable for being SpaceX’s 100th Falcon 9 launch ever. It also marked the company’s 23rd launch this year, and the 67th time SpaceX has regained one of its Falcon 9 boosters after a launch.
These numbers are only expected to grow, with more launches planned this year. And with yesterday’s rocket successfully landing, an eighth flight is perhaps in the future.