The launch of the latest batch of 60 Starlink satellites on January 20 made use of the first Falcon 9 booster to be launched and recovered for an eighth time.
The sixteenth operational SpaceX Starlink mission was launched from the Kennedy Space Center at 13:02 UTC. Following stage separation, the rocket’s upper stage ignited its single Merlin 1D Vacuum engine as the booster began its return to Earth.
Approximately 8 minutes and 20 seconds after liftoff, the booster, serial number B1051, touched down on the Just Read the Instructions droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The recovery marked the first time a Falcon 9 first stage booster had been launched and recovered on an eighth mission.
B1051 was launched for the first time on March 2, 2019, in support of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission. Following its maiden flight, the booster supported the launch of the three-satellite Canadian RADARSAT constellation in June 2019, the SXM-1 broadcasting satellite in December 2020, and four Starlink missions.
In addition to setting a new reusability benchmark for the number of missions it has supported, B1051 was also returned to the launchpad just 38 days after its last mission, faster than ever before.
Over 1,000 Starlink satellites launched
With the deployment of the 60 Starlink satellites 65 minutes after liftoff on January 20, SpaceX has now successfully deployed over 1,000 satellites for its global broadband constellation. Although SpaceX does not officially announce the number of satellites it deorbits, it is believed that of the 1,015 satellites launched since February 2018, 951 are currently still in orbit.
The 951-satellite constellation is currently supporting a limited beta offering of the Starlink broadband service for customers in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
According to CNBC, public records show that SpaceX has also registered Starlink subsidiaries in Austria, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, France, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, and Spain. However, it is unclear how or when SpaceX plans to roll out the Starlink service to those regions.