SpaceX's Falcon 9 has now launched 200 times ahead of Starship debut
SpaceX has successfully launched its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket to orbit 200 times.
That impressive milestone comes in a year in which the private space firm also aims to lift its next-generation Starship into orbit for the very first time.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifted a batch of 53 Starlink internet satellites to orbit early on Thursday, February 2. The mission took off at 2:58 am EST (07:58 GMT) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
SpaceX launches Falcon 9 to orbit 200 times
The reusable Falcon 9 booster used on this particular mission was carrying out its fifth mission. The first stage performed a smooth landing on SpaceX's drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas roughly nine minutes after it took to the skies. Roughly an hour after the launch, the Falcon 9's second stage released all 53 Starlink satellites.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship pic.twitter.com/9a56rWumR1— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 2, 2023
The booster previously launched SpaceX's CRS-24 cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in December 2021 and the OneWeb 1 flight in December 2022, as well as a number of other missions. That OneWeb mission sent 40 satellites to orbit after Russia pulled out of an agreement with London-based OneWeb following sanctions levied against the country's aerospace industry after its invasion of Ukraine.
Since its first launch in June 2010, Falcon 9 has become the cornerstone of SpaceX's operations. The peak of the rocket's achievements arguably came in May 2020, when SpaceX's Demo-2 mission for NASA launched the first humans from U.S. soil in almost a decade. Since that time, it has sent several crew missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX is on course for another record-breaking year
Impressively, SpaceX's latest mission is the fourth time the rocket company has launched a batch of its Starlink internet satellites into orbit.
The company has launched more than 3,800 of the satellites so far, and it has permission to lift another 12,000 or so to space. The space firm won't stop there, however, as it has also applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for approval to deploy a further 30,000 Starlink satellites — the move prompted a group of scientists to organize against SpaceX's "unsustainable" launch plans.
SpaceX is also performing final preparations ahead of the maiden orbital launch of its fully reusable Starship rocket. The company recently performed a full flight-like wet dress rehearsal of Starship, and CEO Elon Musk stated around the same time that Starship could fly to orbit as soon as February, though a "March launch attempt appears highly likely."
2022 was a record-breaking year for SpaceX, as the company almost doubled its previous launch record. Given the fact it launched seven rockets last December alone, the private space firm may be on course to break records again.
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