SpaceX breaks record for Falcon 9 with 16th launch of booster B1058

SpaceX's veteran Falcon 9 booster, B1058, made its 16th launch on Sunday. This was the 216th successful mission for the series and a record-breaking event for the company.
Christopher McFadden
Falcon 9 launch, circa March 2021.

Brandon Moser/iStock 

On the night of July 9, 2023, SpaceX made space history with yet another successful Falcon 9 rocket launch. Blasting off from the Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the rocket carried a payload of Starlink satellites before landing its first stage booster on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

This is pretty much par for the course for SpaceX, but what is more incredible is that this was the 16th launch and landing of its B1058 Falcon 9 rocket booster. The company now hopes to be able to use the same booster another four times before it will need to be retired. This will increase the Falcon 9 booster's reusability limit to 20, double SpaceX's original estimate.

B1058 record-breaking booster

“The Falcon 9 first stage has now successfully launched and landed for a record-breaking 16th time,” said Kate Tice, a SpaceX engineer hosting the company’s launch webcast. “Today’s landing marks our 206th overall landing of an orbital class rocket, including Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy missions," she added. The launch was also SpaceX’s 216th successful mission for the Falcon rocket family, a record unmatched in the history of space launch vehicles.

After months of inspections and refurbishment, SpaceX's most-flown rocket completed its latest flight. The booster was recertified to demonstrate that it could handle up to five more launches after completing its 15th launch and landing in December last year.

SpaceX's booster B1058 was initially used in May 2020 to launch NASA crew members Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission. This successful mission marked the end of a nearly nine-year drought in US launches carrying astronauts into orbit. In over three years of service, the primary booster of SpaceX has successfully launched 801 spacecraft and payloads, along with two astronauts.

As for the Starlink payload, the latest Starlinks are V2 "Minis," which, despite the name, are larger than SpaceX’s previous generation Starlinks. The upgraded satellites include “4x more capacity per satellite than earlier iterations”, according to SpaceX. Currently, Earth's orbit houses over 4,000 operational Starlink satellites that provide users with high-speed internet.

These same satellites will launch via SpaceX's Starship rocket once operational. Notably, SpaceX has recently conducted a successful six-engine static fire test of its Starship rocket at its Texas-based Starbase facility, following its initial failed orbital mission earlier this year.

Megaton payload annually

A space company has signed multi-billion dollar contracts with NASA to use their rocket for the Artemis lunar program. Additionally, SpaceX has plans to use a group of rockets to establish a permanent human colony on Mars by 2050.

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, shared an update on their latest spacecraft - the biggest rocket ever built - shortly after deploying their latest satellites. “Looks like we can increase Raptor thrust by ~20 percent to reach 9,000 tons (20 million lbs) of force at sea level... And deliver over 200 tons of payload to a useful orbit with full and rapid reusability,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Fifty rockets flying every three days on average enables over a megaton of payload to orbit per year – enough to build a self-sustaining city on Mars," he added.

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