SpaceX has successfully deployed 58 Starlink satellites and 3 Planet SkySats. The flight-proven Falcon 9 first stage utilised for the mission is the first to be launched and recovered six times.
The flight-proven Falcon 9 was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 14:31 UTC. As the nine Merlin engines of the Falcon 9 first stage roared into life, the rocket cleared the tower and soared skyward. Although like any other successful Falcon 9 liftoff, this marked a new benchmark in reusability for SpaceX
The Falcon 9 booster used for today’s launch was B1049. The booster had previously been used to launch Telstar 18V, Iridium-8, and three other Starlink missions. Today’s launch was its sixth flight, more than any Falcon 9 booster.
In addition to it being the first booster to be launched six times, B1049 was also the first to be recovered six times. The booster touched down safely on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
The booster was, however, not the only flight-proven hardware that was successfully recovered. Both fairing halves utilised for this today’s launch were flight-proven, although it is not known what mission they previously supported. Following separation from the rocket, each fairing’s integrated parachute was deployed successfully.
One of the faring halves was caught in the net of the Ms. Tree recovery ship. The other was not caught and made a soft water landing, after which it was scooped out of the Atlantic by the Ms. Chief recovery ship.
Following the excitement of the launch and the multiple recoveries, focus shifted into orbit. The three Planet SkySat Earth observation satellites were deployed at 30-second intervals approximately 12 minutes into the mission. The rocket then completed a 30-minute coast phase, after which the 58 Starlink satellites safely drifted away from the Falcon 9 upper stage.