SpaceX launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets for a record-tying 13th time on Sunday morning (July 17), and nailed the landing too.
It was the 13th launch for this Falcon 9’s first stage, tying a rocket reuse record that SpaceX set last month and matched just 10 days ago. The booster also helped loft SpaceX’s Demo-2 crewed test flight to the International Space Station, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, the SXM-7 communications satellite and nine Starlink missions, SpaceX representatives said in a mission description (opens in new tab).
And this booster will probably fly yet again: A little less than nine minutes after liftoff, it came down for a vertical landing on the SpaceX droneship Just Read the Instructions, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
The 53 Starlink satellites deployed from the Falcon 9’s upper stage about seven minutes later, at 15.5 minutes after liftoff, according to a tweet (opens in new tab) from the company.
The fairing halves that protected the satellites on their ride to orbit made their third flight today, marking the 50th SpaceX mission to use reflown fairing halves, according to the company’s mission broadcast. The fairings were also destined to be fished out of the water for use on a future mission.
Sunday’s flight continues a very busy 2022 for SpaceX. Today’s flight was the 31st Falcon 9 mission this year, already tying the company’s 2021 launch tally.
Starlink is SpaceX’s huge constellation of broadband satellites. The company has launched more than 2,800 Starlink spacecraft to low Earth orbit to date, and many more will likely go up in the not-too-distant future: SpaceX has permission to loft 12,000 Starlink satellites, and it has applied for approval to launch 30,000 additional spacecraft on top of that.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for 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).
Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, “Out There,” was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.