Lift off of Starlink L20. Photo by: Matt Cutshall – NHS
At 6:01 AM Est atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center
On the first day we set our clocks forward this year SpaceX wanted to keep us on our toes with a 6:01 AM launch. People who forgot to adjust for the change were startled along the space coast as the engines of the Falcon 9 rumbled away from our planet as their near 1.8 million pounds of thrust shook the ground around Kennedy Space Center.
The sun had yet to rise but that didn’t stop SpaceX from starting their day. Launching from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center sixty more Starlink satellites are now in their respective orbits to further broaden the services of the Starlink internet services. To date they have now launched 1,325 satellites into their constellation, and 1,200 of them are still operable, meaning the company is well on their way to reaching their initial goal of 12,000 satellites in orbit over us to provide high speed low latency internet across the globe.
This launch also marks a very big first for SpaceX. Falcon 9 booster 1051 has become the first booster to reach a record nine flights to orbit and back successfully. Elon Musk previously stated that the company is aiming for ten flights per booster before any major refurbishment is needed. We now have one booster which has flown nine times, another that has flown eight times, and one booster that has flown six successful times. The next upcoming Starlink launch that when completed successfully will mark the second booster to survive six missions when booster 1060 brings Starlink L21 to fruition. That mission will also mark the first time SpaceX has been able to launch four mission in the same month. Another testament to their ability to reuse hardware and make the launch cadence continue to quicken.
This mornings launch was under a cloudless sky and a weather report from the 45th Space Wing giving them a 90% chance at favorable conditions. Their report held true and the launch countdown continued as planned all the way through to T-zero. At that point the nine Merlin 1D engines all ignited perfectly and gave us a sunrise before the official sunrise over Cape Canaveral. Around eight minutes after liftoff the first stage booster touched safely down on the deck of the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You”, then about an hour after liftoff SpaceX confirmed the deployment of all sixty of their newest satellites.