SpaceX launches another 53 Starlink satellites on a record-tying 12th Falcon 9 flight

The same Falcon 9 first stage was used for SpaceX's historic Demo-2 mission.
Chris Young
The Falcon 9 at launch (left) and at Max-Q (right).SpaceX/YouTube

SpaceX has yet another Starlink launch under its belt.

The private space company successfully launched another 53 Starlink satellites to orbit on Friday, May 6, 5:42 a.m. EDT (0942 GMT) on mission Starlink 4-17.

This is the 12th launch for this Falcon 9 first stage, which makes it tied with another Falcon 9 for SpaceX's reuse record. 

Another 53 SpaceX Starlink satellites reach orbit

The image above shows the Falcon 9 at launch on the left and at Max-Q on the right. Max-Q is the point at which a rocket is experiencing maximum dynamic pressure and undergoing the most mechanical stress it will feel during the entire launch.

The same Falcon 9 used for this particular launch has now been used for seven Starlink launches and it was also used for SpaceX's historic Demo-2 launch, which brought human spaceflight back to U.S. soil for the first time in almost a decade in May 2020. The Demo-2 launch is the subject of a new Netflix documentary called "Return to Space".

Impressive footage of the first stage reentering Earth's atmosphere in the early morning local time showed the landing gears in the forefront with the sunrise in the background. 

SpaceX launches another 53 Starlink satellites on a record-tying 12th Falcon 9 flight
The Falcon 9 first stage reentering Earth's atmosphere. Source: SpaceX/YouTube

At 5:51 a.m. EDT (0951 GMT) the Falcon 9 first stage successfully landed aboard the droneship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas'. It was SpaceX's 111th recovery of a Falcon 9 first stage for reuse.

This is SpaceX's 44th Starlink launch overall, and the private space firm has now sent more than 2,000 Starlink satellites into orbit since its first Starlink launch in May 2019. More than 1,600 of those satellites are operational and SpaceX is currently serving 250,000 Starlink subscribers worldwide.

The Starlink mega constellation continues to grow

SpaceX's Starlink operations have recently been widely praised and have also been criticized by astronomers and NASA officials. The internet satellite service has helped to keep Ukrainian civilians and troops connected amid the ongoing conflict, with recent data suggesting it keeps up to 150,000 people connected daily in the area.

However, the Starlink satellites are also hampering astronomical observations to the point that NASA recently warned they may reduce its ability to detect a potentially catastrophic asteroid impact ahead of time.

In any case, the cadence of Starlink launches isn't set to slow down any time soon: SpaceX has permission from the FCC to launch a further 12,000 satellites into orbit and it is currently waiting on approval to send approximately 30,000 more up into space.

This was a breaking story and it was updated regularly. You can watch the live stream as it happened below.

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