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 EDT (1609 GMT), and carried 53 of SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites into orbit. It was the first of three rocket launches in three days from three different pillows that SpaceX plans to carry out.
The 53 satellites were launched into orbit around 15.5 minutes after the launch, as planned. But there was action before then as well: About 8.5 minutes after takeoff, the Falcon 9’s first leg came down to earth for a vertical landing on the SpaceX drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic off the Florida coast.
Related: SpaceX’s Starlink mega constellation is launched in images
It was the 13th launch and landing for this Falcon 9 first leg, setting a new SpaceX record for reuse. The booster has previously assisted a GPS satellite, a Turkish communications satellite, a number of spacecraft on the Transporter 2 “rideshare” mission and nine Starlink batches, according to a SpaceX mission description (opens in new tab).
Such a comprehensive return flight is a major 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 number of other ambitious space achievements.
Starlink is SpaceX’s constellation of Internet satellites. The company has now launched more than 2700 Starlink vessels in orbit (opens in new tab), and the number will continue to increase well into the future; The next generation version of the network could eventually consist of up to 30,000 satellites (opens in new tab).
Today’s mission started a planned rocket triple head for SpaceX, which also intends to launch a radar satellite for the German military on Saturday morning (June 18) and a commercial communications satellite early Sunday (June 19).
This intense 36-hour stretch will continue a very busy year for SpaceX. The company has already launched 24 missions in 2022, 15 of them dedicated to Starlink flights.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:30 EDT (1630 GMT) June 17 with news of successful launch, rocket landing and satellite deployment.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in new tab)“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the pursuit of alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).