SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites into orbit early Sunday morning, taking the total number of satellites sent to space in under two weeks to 180. The mission’s most impressive aspect was that it was the 10th flight of the Falcon 9 first-stage rocket booster used in the launch.
For SpaceX, this is a record in booster reuse. “At Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, Falcon 9 launched 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40). Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship after stage separation” On their site, SpaceX wrote.
“This was the first Falcon 9 first stage booster to complete a tenth launch and landing. The first stage booster previously supported Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), SXM-7, and now seven Starlink missions.”
That’s impressive, but it’s nowhere near the number of times SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wants his boosters to travel. A Falcon 9 booster could be reused “100+” times, according to Musk. Reusing the boosters saves money, which Musk has stressed numerous times. Indeed, if space exploration at this rate is to be maintained, it must be cost-effective.
This is particularly relevant when launching Starlink satellites into orbit, as SpaceX serves as both the launch provider and the client during missions. In terms of cost-effectiveness, Musk has emphasized the benefits of reusing boosters, claiming that reusing a booster once results in a break-even and that reusing a booster twice results in being ahead in terms of economics.
The next Starlink launch is six days away, and it will be fascinating to see if the booster can be successfully reused once more. Musk has announced that he intends to complete 48 launches this year, but that many changes would be needed to achieve that goal. It appears that SpaceX is on the right track to achieving Musk’s objectives.