SpaceX lands a Falcon 9 booster for the 12th time, launches 53 more Starlink satellites
SpaceX launched another 53 Starlink internet satellites to orbit on Thursday, April 21, using a Falcon 9 rocket whose first stage performed a record-tying 12th landing.
The Falcon 9 rocket took off at 01:51 pm EDT (17:51 GMT) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Just over eight minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9 booster came down and performed a safe landing on the SpaceX droneship Just Read The Instructions off the coast of Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.
According to a tweet from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the 53 satellites deployed into their parking orbit as planned. The landing means this particular Falcon 9 first stage now shares the record for most landings with another booster that reached the same milestone during another Starlink mission.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Just Read the Instructions droneship, completing this booster’s 12th launch and landing pic.twitter.com/6PV1bFRgar— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 21, 2022
SpaceX has sent more than 2,000 Starlink satellites into orbit. The company has been praised in recent weeks for providing communications services to civilians in war-torn Ukraine, though it has also faced criticism for sending so many satellites into orbit. Even its chief partner, NASA, recently warned that the Starlink mega constellation could reduce its capacity for detecting potentially hazardous asteroids on a collision course with Earth.
Starlink could help SpaceX reach the Moon and Mars
SpaceX continues to send Starlink satellites to space at a steady pace: nine of the company's 15 launches this year were dedicated Starlink missions.
The company will soon face competition from Amazon's Project Kuiper, which aims to send its first prototype satellites to space later this year. Much like Starlink, the service aims to provide high-speed, low latency broadband anywhere on Earth. Amazon recently penned a total of 83 launch contracts spread across three companies: Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and Arianespace.
Shortly after the latest SpaceX launch, Musk tweeted a photo of Falcon 9 at launch alongside a caption saying "believe in the future". The SpaceX CEO has stated that the revenue from the company's Starlink service will help it to develop its fully reusable Starship launch vehicle, which it will eventually send to the Moon and Mars.
The company recently sent its first all-civilian mission to the ISS, called Ax-1, and it is currently preparing to launch astronauts on the upcoming Crew-4 mission, which is scheduled to launch no earlier than April 26.
Amazon maintains that employees and robots will continue to collaborate within its warehouses, however, according to specialists in robotics, the business may eventually be able to rely on robots to carry out much of the jobs that it currently delegates to human workers.