SpaceX launches 53 Starlink satellites off a rocket that launched just 21 days earlier
SpaceX successfully launched 53 Starlink satellites using a booster rocket that had flown just 21 days earlier, setting a new record in turnaround time for its reusable rockets.
The Friday afternoon launch from the east coast of South Carolina, just outside Charleston, went off as planned and was the 151st Falcon 9 mission overall and the 43rd mission mostly dedicated to launching the company's micro-satellite constellation. The Starlink satellite system will provide high-speed internet access anywhere in the world, the company promises.
According to SpaceFlightNow, the first stage booster on the Falcon 9, designated B1062, successfully landed on SpaceX's recovery droneship "Just Read the Instructions", a little after eight minutes after liftoff at a distance of about 400 miles off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
This is the sixth launch for booster B1062, making it all the more impressive that its turnaround time for a relaunch was just three weeks. It first flew in November 2020, with a subsequent launch in June of last year.
It helped launch Inspiration4, the first-ever all private space mission to orbit the Earth, in September 2021 before returning to action in January of this year for a Starlink deployment mission. Its last mission before Friday's was Axiom's Ax-1 commercial crew launch to the ISS.
Reusability is the future of spaceflight
There is nothing we enjoy more than a good rocket launch, and this week's was no exception. The fact that these launches have become so routine now and that the rockets themselves, after undergoing some almost obscene physical stresses to launch stuff into space, are able to do so several times in fairly short order bodes well for the future of spaceflight.
The last Soyuz rocket launch that NASA flew an American astronaut on cost somewhere on the order of $90 million for a single seat, while you can book an entire Falcon Heavy launch for about that price, though the price of a SpaceX launch has recently gone up about 8% due to price inflation on everything from raw materials to labor costs.
One way to help keep those costs down is to get the absolute most out of the rockets you have before you build another one, so we should expect to see quicker turnaround times and more veteran rockets powering the next generation of spaceflight in the years ahead.
Biomass, which has recently left for final testing before launch in 2024, will be the seventh Earth Explorer programme satellite in orbit.