SpaceX successfully launched a Starlink mission on the 10-year anniversary of the maiden Falcon 9 flight. The mission was also the first time a single Falcon 9 booster had been launched and recovered for a fifth time.
The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the seventh set of 60 Starlink satellites was launched from Cape Canaveral at 01:25 UTC on June 4. Just fourteen minutes after liftoff, all 60 satellites drifted away from the rocket’s upper stage into a stable low Earth orbit.
In addition to the successful deployment, the Falcon 9 Block 5 booster (B1049) used for the mission was recovered without incident. It touched down on the Just Read the Instructions droneship stationed in the Atlantic approximately 9 minutes after lifting off from the Cape. The recovery marked the fifth successful mission for the B1049 booster, an accolade it alone holds.
The booster was first launched on September 10, 2018, delivering the Telstar 18V / Apstar-5C satellite into orbit. With the completion of its fifth mission, B1049 has launched 191 satellites with a combined weight of 61,480 kilograms. It has been launched from Cape Canaveral and Vanderburg, and has delivered payloads to geosynchronous orbit, low Earth orbit, and polar low Earth orbit. It has done all this and it is only halfway through its minimum planned lifespan of 10 flights.
In addition to Thursday’s launch being a record-setting flight for B1049, it also marked the 10-year anniversary of operational Falcon 9 missions.
The rocket was first launched on June 4, 2010, carrying the Dragon Spacecraft Qualification Unit. Up to that point, SpaceX had only launched five Falcon 1 missions, with three of those ending in failure. The launch was also the first time SpaceX has been granted permission to launch from the Cape. The company had previously been relegated to Omelek Island, the unknown upstart not trusted to launch anywhere near national security assets.
Despite what must have been an immense amount of pressure, the fledgling rocket company, which had only been founded less than a decade earlier, succeeded. Since that first fateful flight, a total of 86 Falcon 9 rockets have taken flight, with just two ending in failure.