SpaceX sent another batch of Starlink broadband satellites on their way to orbit from Florida on Tuesday, along with a few Earth-observing metal birds, and made history once again in the process.
The Falcon 9 booster that Elon Musk’s space company used for the ride share had previously flown on three Starlink missions and on two commercial satellite delivery gigs. That means its flight this week was its sixth, a new mark for a single orbital rocket.
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“Some big milestones coming up,” Musk said on Twitter Sunday, referring to the sixth flight of the booster (serial number B-1049) and the 100th mission for SpaceX over the company’s history.
The Falcon 9 first stage actually set two records on the same day, by first launching for the sixth time and then landing for the sixth time a short while later.
The launch went off on schedule Tuesday morning at 7:31 a.m. PT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and the booster landed about nine minutes later on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to the historic launch and landing, SpaceX managed to catch one half of the nose cone that protected the 58 Starlink satellites and three satellites belonging to Earth-imagery company Planet as they blasted through the atmosphere. The fairing half was snagged using a large ship equipped with a net, as seen in the video below. The other half reportedly landed nearby in the water.
This fairing pair is also experienced in flight, having been used and recovered on an earlier Starlink mission. SpaceX has just recently perfected its method for retrieving these components, and we’ll see if it can eventually make a habit of this and continue to expand its recycling program.
Although officially named Starlink 10, this was actually the 11th launch of a batch of Starlink satellites, following the most recent prior mission on Aug. 7. The next one after this week’s is set for September, and will be preceded by a Falcon 9 launch in late August of a Argentinian satellite that was originally scheduled for a 2019 liftoff.