SpaceX has successfully launched an additional 60 Starlink satellites aboard a flight-proven Falcon 9. In addition to it being only the second time a Falcon 9 was launched and recovered six times, it was the first to utilise two fairing halves for a third time.
The Falcon 9 carrying the latest load of Starlink satellites was launched from the Kennedy Space Center at 12:25 UTC on October 18.
Following a successful liftoff and first stage separation, the Falcon 9 booster returned to Earth and touched down on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship stationed in the Atlantic.
The recovery of the historic fairing halves used for today’s mission didn’t go as smoothly. Although one of the halves did make it into the net of the Ms. Chief fairing recovery ship, it ripped through and landed on the deck of the ship. SpaceX has not yet confirmed if the fairing or the deck of the ship suffered any damage.
Approximately one hour, two second-stage burns, and two coast phases after liftoff, all 60 Starlink satellites were deployed successfully drifting away from the rocket’s upper stage into low Earth orbit.
While SpaceX continues regular commercial operations, the investigation into an aborted launch that has delayed the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon is still ongoing.
In an October 10 statement published on the NASA Commercial Crew blog, the agency announced that the launch of the Crew-1 mission would be delayed until early-to-mid November.
The statement identified an abort suffered during an attempted launch of the GPS III-4 satellite for the US Space Force. Following the abort, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced that there had been an “unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator” in at least one of the nine Merlin rocket engines that power the Falcon 9′ first stage.
Although the investigation will not affect any other missions including a NASA science mission, the crewed Crew-1 flight has been.