Satellites Space

With the launch of Starlink, SpaceX establishes a new record for booster reuse

A Falcon 9 rocket deployed another group of Starlink satellites on 14 March, setting a new record for the rocket’s first stage with its ninth deployment and landing.  At 6:01 a.m. Eastern, the Falcon 9 rocket flew off from the Launch Complex 39A situated at the Kennedy Space Center. Upper stage placed sixty Starlink satellites into orbit sixty-five minutes later, taking the broadband internet constellation’s total number of satellites to around 1,260.

This was the Falcon 9’s eighth release of the year, and it came just over 72 hours after yet another Falcon 9 deployment of the Starlink satellites. Six of this year’s Falcon 9 missions have been devoted to Starlink, as well as one of the other two, the Transporter-1 dedicated rideshare flight, carried ten Starlink satellites as well.

Eight and a half minutes after the liftoff, the rocket’s first stage arrived on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The Falcon 9 was on its 9th flight, a Falcon 9 record. The rocket, which deployed the Crew Dragon spacecraft on Demo-1 uncrewed flight in 2019 March, also deployed the Radarsat Constellation Mission as well as SiriusXM SXM-7 satellite. It had previously deployed five Starlink missions, such as the booster’s last flight on January 20.

The booster is now close to achieving SpaceX’s target of being able to fly ten times. However, a firm official recently stated that the target could be exceeded. Throughout a panel discussion which was held at the 47th Spaceport Summit previous month, Hans Koenigsmann, who serves as the senior advisor for construct as well as flight efficiency at SpaceX, stated, “We’re discovering a lot about renovation, and we’re learning where even the areas are where we require to pay close attention to.” The heat shield on the booster as well as the engine components are two areas that need special attention. “With every arrival, we’ve discovered something new.”

A few of those lessons were difficult. After a launch on Feb. 15, one booster failed to land, ending a nearly year-long string of effective landings. The firm later stated that an engine closes down during flight after hot gas came through a hole in the engine cover on the Falcon 9 which was a “life pioneer” in the Falcon 9 group, with the most launches. Due to the shutdown, the booster lacked sufficient thrust to land on the droneship.

At a March 1 seminar about the forthcoming NASA Crew-2 commercial crew launch, Benji Reed, who is the senior director in charge of the human spaceflight projects at SpaceX, stated of the unsuccessful landing, “The further you fly, the further you learn.” “We learned a valuable lesson from these extremely long-life leader elements and vehicles.” Among the lessons learned, he said, were updated plans for testing and removing parts.