SpaceX launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets for a record-breaking 13th time on Sunday morning (July 17) and also nailed the landing.
It was the 13th launch for the first stage of this Falcon 9, setting a record for rocket reuse SpaceX Added last month and reconciled just 10 days ago. The booster also helped SpaceX’s attic Demo-2 manned test flight to the International Space Station, the RADARSAT Constellation mission, the SXM-7 communications satellite and nine Starlink missions, SpaceX officials said in a mission description (opens in new tab).
And this booster will likely fly again: Barely nine minutes after launch, it landed vertically on SpaceX’s Just Read the Instructions drone ship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.
The 53 Starlink satellites were deployed from the Falcon 9 upper stage about seven minutes later, 15.5 minutes after launch, according to a tweet (opens in new tab) by the company.
The fairing halves protecting the satellites as they travel into orbit completed their third flight today, marking the 50th SpaceX mission to use flown-over fairing halves, according to the company’s mission broadcast. The fairings were also to be fished out of the water for a future mission.
The Sunday flight continues a very busy 2022 for SpaceX. Today’s flight was the 31st Falcon 9 mission this year, already tying the company’s launch tally for 2021.
Starlink is SpaceX’s massive constellation of broadband satellites. The company has more than 2,800 Starlink spacecraft launched to low Earth orbit to date, and many more likely to rise in the not too distant future: SpaceX has permission to lift 12,000 Starlink satellites and it has applied for approval to launch 30,000 additional spacecraft beyond that.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaelwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or he Facebook (opens in new tab).