As planned, the 53 satellites were released into low Earth orbit 15.5 minutes after launch. But there was activity before that: about 8.5 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first stage landed vertically on the SpaceX droneship.
Such extensive reflight is a big priority for SpaceX and its billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk. Musk has repeatedly said that rapid and complete reuse is the key breakthrough that will allow humanity to settle Mars and achieve a variety of other ambitious spaceflight feats.
Today’s mission kicked off a planned rocket tripleheader for SpaceX, which also intends to launch a radar satellite for the German military on Saturday morning (June 18) and a commercial communications satellite early Sunday (June 19).
Starlink is SpaceX’s constellation of internet satellites. The company has now launched more than 2,700 Starlink craft to orbit, and the number will continue to increase far into the future; the next-generation version of the network could eventually consist of up to 30,000 satellites.
At 12:09 p.m. EDT (1609 GMT), the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, delivering 53 of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites into orbit. It was the first of three rocket flights planned by SpaceX in three days from three different launch pads.
It was the 13th launch and landing for this Falcon 9 first stage, setting a new SpaceX reuse record. The booster previously helped loft a GPS satellite, a Turkish communications satellite, a variety of spacecraft on the Transporter 2 “rideshare” mission and nine Starlink batches, according to a SpaceX mission description.
This intense 36-hour stretch will continue a very busy year for SpaceX. The company has already launched 24 missions in 2022, 15 of them dedicated Starlink flights.