SpaceX launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets for the 13th time today (June 17), setting a new reuse record.
The two-stage Falcon 9 lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida today at 12:09 p.m. EDT (1609 GMT), carrying 53 of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites into orbit. It was the first of three rocket launches in three days from three different pads that SpaceX plans to perform.
The 53 satellites were deployed into low Earth orbit approximately 15.5 minutes after launch, as planned. But there was action before that, too: About 8.5 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9 first stage descended to Earth for a vertical landing on the SpaceX drone A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was parked in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.
Related: SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation launches in photos
This was the 13th launch and landing of this Falcon 9 first stage, setting a new SpaceX reuse record. The booster previously helped launch a GPS satellite, a Turkish communications satellite, a variety of spacecraft on the Transporter 2 “rideshare” mission and nine Starlink batches, according to a SpaceX mission description. (opens in a new tab).
Such extensive flight is a high priority for SpaceX and its billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk. Musk has repeatedly said that rapid and complete reuse is the key breakthrough that will allow humanity to settle on Mars and achieve a variety of other ambitious space feats.
Starlink is SpaceX’s internet satellite constellation. The company has now launched more than 2,700 Starlink ships into orbit (opens in a new tab), and the number will continue to increase long into the future; the next generation version of the network could eventually include up to 30,000 satellites (opens in a new tab).
Today’s mission kicked off a three-headed rocket planned for SpaceX, which also intends to launch a radar satellite for the German military on Saturday morning (June 18) and a satellite commercial communications early Sunday (June 19).
This intense 36-hour period will continue a very busy year for SpaceX. The company has already launched 24 missions in 2022, including 15 dedicated to Starlink flights.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 12:30 p.m. EDT (4:30 p.m. GMT) June 17 with news of the successful liftoff, rocket landing, and satellite deployment.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).