Early Sunday morning, SpaceX launched into an orbit another 60 Starlink satellites, bringing the total to 180 satellites delivered to orbit in under two weeks. However, the really impressive part of the mission was that it marked the 10th flight of the Falcon 9 first-stage rocket booster used for the launch.
This sets a record for booster re-use for SpaceX. "Falcon 9 launched 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. After stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage returned to Earth and landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship," SpaceX wrote on their site.
"This was the first Falcon 9 first stage booster to complete a tenth launch and landing. The first stage booster previously supported Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), SXM-7, and now seven Starlink missions."
As impressive as that is, it is still not close enough to how many times SpaceX CEO Elon Musk would like his boosters to fly. Musk has previously stated that there is the possibility for a Falcon 9 booster to be reused “100+” times.
Reusing the boosters means saving money and that is something Musk has emphasized time and time again. Indeed, if space travel is to be sustained at this speed, it needs to be cost-efficient.
This is especially important when sending Starlink satellites into orbit as SpaceX is both the launch provider and client during those missions. In terms of cost-efficiency, Musk has touted the advantages of reusing boosters saying the reuse leads to breaking even when a booster is reused once and actually being ahead in terms of economics when a booster is reused twice.
The next Starlink launch is planned for six days from now and it will be exciting to see if the booster is successfully reused again. Musk has stated that he plans to complete 48 launches this year but that in order for that to be achieved many improvements will have to be made. It seems SpaceX is on the right path to seeing Musk's goals come to fruition.