January 20th, 8:02 AM Est atop a Falcon 9 rocket from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center
Photo by: Kyle Montgomery – NHS
Decades ago people wondered who would be first. Who would be first to fly into space, to the moon, Now we are left wondering which rocket will be first to fly ten times. Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of SpaceX told us awhile back he expects each Falcon 9 first stage booster to fly ten times before needing serious refurbishment. Today booster 1051 has come one step closer to reaching that ten flights. It currently holds the record for the most flown first stage rocket booster in history after successfully completing it’s eighth flight this morning. It has been in constant competition with booster 1049, which was the first to fly seven times. Months later 1051 tied that seven flight record and now just thirty-four days after it’s last flight (another new turn around record) We are unsure as to why booster 1051 flew before 1049 this time but those of us who love a good competition are enjoying the show of which will be first to reach ten flights.
If you remember, exactly one year ago yesterday was the IFA (In Flight Abort) test for SpaceX where about 188 seconds into launch the first stage was made to explode and simulate extreme circumstances in which the emergency escape system was tested on the Crew Dragon. There was no dramatic explosion today as the first stage made it into space successfully before deploying the second stage and with it all sixty of the Starlink satellites. Both launches did occur from the same pad, LC-39A the historic launch pad where every Moon walking mission began. LC-39A was initially only going to be used by SpaceX to launch crew missions and their Falcon Heavy rocket but their high launch cadence made them start utilizing both SLC-40 and LC-39A to keep up the high number of launches. To date this is the 30th launch of a Falcon 9 from this launch pad.
For today’s 105th flight of a Falcon 9, today marks the 18th landing on the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” and the 72nd successful overall landing, the other two options being back at LZ-1 on shore at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station or the second drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” it is also the 51st reflight of a Falcon 9 first stage booster.
Today’s cargo, another batch of sixty Starlink satellites for the company. If you don’t remember, Starlink is the internet communications constellation of satellites run by SpaceX to provide high speed, low cost internet across the globe. The company is currently in limited public beta testing with a wider release coming in the next few months. SpaceX states they only need twenty-four launches to reach global coverage and should easily begin later this year. Starlink is estimated to profit between 30-50 billion dollars annually with the intentions to use that money to finance the companies newest venture, their Starship program. This is the sixteenth launch of operational Starlink satellites, making the number in orbit currently around 1,013. I say around because some of them have stopped operating and SpaceX deorbited them so they could burn up entering Earth’s atmosphere.