Watch a SpaceX rocket fly for a record 11th time in a Starlink satellite mission
Elon Musk's Starlink internet project continues to move forward, launch by launch.
SpaceX launched another 47 internet-beaming satellites from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday morning.
Nine minutes after launch, the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage that lifted the Starlink satellites returned to the planet, making a perfect landing on the Just Read the Instructions drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX launches 47 more Starlink satellites after supplying Ukraine with terminals
The event marked the 11th successful landing for this specific Falcon 9 booster, tying it for the record of most flights with another Falcon 9 in the SpaceX fleet. In the past, the booster that lifted today's payload has taken the Transporter 2 into space (June 2021), the Turksat 5A (January 2021), and launched the GPS III SV03 mission (June 2020) — in addition to seven other earlier Starlink payloads, according to SpaceX officials on the live stream of the launch.
Proving extensive reusability for its Falcon 9s is of utmost importance to SpaceX, ensuring it can complete space missions at a fraction of the cost. As Musk has repeated over the years, the full and rapid reusability of new space technologies is crucial to set the human race up with a shot at settling on Mars, returning to the Moon, and taking the next significant steps in the human exploration of deep space.
Since SpaceX began assembling its Starlink constellation into space in 2019, the network has done more than move inevitably toward its high goal of providing global internet (with emphasis on remote regions).
Last week, Musk voluntarily sent 50 Starlink terminals to Ukraine, which Russia recently invaded under the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Now, you may have heard that Starlink has been activated in Ukraine to help with internet access in that country," said SpaceX's Operations Engineer Siva Bharadvaj on the live stream of today's launch.
Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high. Please use with caution.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 3, 2022
After liftoff, CEO Musk tweeted to reiterate how his Starlink internet service was the only reliable internet in Ukraine that wasn't controlled by Russian authorities or at risk of being cut by the Russian military. "Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high. Please use with caution," he warned in a tweet.
"A few days ago, the Ukrainian government confirmed that the Starlink kits had arrived," said Bharadvaj in the live stream. "We're told that they're already in use. We couldn't be more proud of all the teams that jumped in to make this effort happen, along with many individuals luckily [that were] supported. Thank you, and we hope it helps."
SpaceX will continue to make many more Starlink launches in the coming weeks and months. As of writing, more than 2,000 Starlink satellites have been installed in low-Earth orbit, and government agencies have already approved another 12,000 satellites.
Decades ago, rocket launches were a thing of sheer wonder, but those days are over. With SpaceX's recent application to launch up to 30,000 more Starlink satellites, the new capabilities of global internet coverage could also be a vital revenue stream as Musk looks to raise more money in his mission to send people to Mars.
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