SpaceX has successfully launched its second set of 60 Starlink communication satellites aboard a Falcon 9. In addition to it being the first time a Falcon 9 first stage booster has been recovered for a fourth time, the flight also utilized the world’s first flight-proven rocket fairing.
The record-breaking Falcon 9 was launched from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40 launchpad at 14:56 UTC. Following a successful launch and first stage separation, the Falcon 9 first stage booster touched down safely on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship. In orbit, the rocket’s upper stage performed two planned burns before deploying all 60 Starlink satellites. The satellites were deployed approximately one hour after liftoff into a target orbit 280 kilometers above Earth.
The Falcon 9 booster used for the Starlink 1 mission (B1048) was the first to be launched and recovered for a fourth time. The maiden launch of B1048 on July 15, 2018, carried 10 Iridium NEXT communication satellites. Less than three months later on October 8, it was resued for the first time launching the SAOCOM 1A Earth observation satellite. In February 2019, the booster was launched on its third mission carrying the Nusantara Satu communications satellite and the Beresheet Moon lander.
In addition to being the first mission to utilize a Falcon 9 booster for a fourth time, the Starlink 1 mission also carried the world’s first flight-proven fairing. The fairing encases the payload and is used to shield it from the aerodynamic forces during the initial ascent phase. Once in space, the fairing is no longer needed and is jettisoned.
The fairing utilized for the Starlink 1 mission had previously been used aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket that launched the Arabsat-6A mission on April 12, 2019. No attempt was made to recover the fairing halves for a second time.