SpaceX launched another large batch of its Starlink internet satellites into orbit and landed a ship aboard a rocket at sea on Tuesday (August 9).
Less than nine minutes after launch, the first stage of Falcon 9 returned to Earth for a vertical landing aboard SpaceX’s A Shortfall of Gravitas drone, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.
Meanwhile, Falcon 9’s upper stage continued to make its way into low Earth orbit, eventually deploying Starlink satellites as planned about 15 minutes after liftoff. SpaceX confirmed via Twitter (Opens in a new tab).
Starlink is a huge Internet group for SpaceX, which broadcasts broadband service to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Now owned by Elon Musk Launched more than 3,000 Starlink satellites (Opens in a new tab) in orbit, but a larger number is likely to rise; SpaceX has permission to roll out 12,000 of the craft and has applied for approval to launch an additional 30,000 on top of that.
Tonight’s launch was the company’s 21st Starlink mission for 2022 and its 35th orbital flight of the year overall, adding to SpaceX’s record. The company’s previous mark for most orbital missions in one year was 31, set in 2021.
Reusing rockets is a big priority for SpaceX, which it sees as a breakthrough that will help make colonization of Mars possible.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 that flew on Tuesday had already undergone two spaceflights under its belt, According to the description of the mission of SpaceX (Opens in a new tab). This is impressive, but far from SpaceX’s record; Three different Falcon 9 boosters launched 13 orbital missions so far.
The Starlink launch was part of a very busy day for SpaceX. Also today, the company conducted “stationary fire” engine tests at its South Texas facility With Booster 7 and Ship 24prototypes of its deep space transportation system.
SpaceX is preparing for the Booster 7 and Ship 24 for the first orbital test flight of the Starship program, which the company aims to launch in the coming months.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:20pm EST on August 9 to include webcast information and to correct the expected satellite deployment time (to approximately 15 minutes after liftoff, rather than an hour). Updated again at 10:43PM EDT with news of the successful launch, landing and static fire tests of the Booster 7 and Ship 24.
Mike Wall is the author of “Abroad (Opens in a new tab)Book (Great Grand Publishing House, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrials. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter Tweet embed (Opens in a new tab) or on Facebook (Opens in a new tab).