Hawthorne-based SpaceX set a record Tuesday for the reuse of its workhorse Falcon 9 rockets when it launched another batch of internet satellites into orbit.
The Falcon 9 rocket that was used in Tuesday morning’s launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida has been used in five previous missions. It became the first to be successfully launched and recovered six times.
Tuesday’s mission, which launched at 7:31 a.m. California time, is propelling 58 Starlink satellites into orbit, continuing to build SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s planned worldwide internet array, offering low-cost broadband access to traditionally underserved areas. Roughly 600 Starlink satellites are already in orbit.
Tuesday’s launch also deployed three Earth-imaging satellites for a private company known as Planet. Those three satellites were deployed into orbit first — about 12 and a half minutes after liftoff — followed by the Starlink satellites 46 minutes after liftoff, according to SpaceX.
After launch and second-stage separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket was maneuvered back to Earth. One “fairing half” of the rocket was caught by the recovery vessel Ms. Tree, and the second fairing half made a “soft water-landing” in the Atlantic Ocean, according to SpaceX.
The Falcon 9 first stage was first used in a satellite launch in September 2018. It was used again in a January 2019 launch, then again in three more Starlink satellite launches, in May 2019, January 2020 and June 2020, according to SpaceX.
Several Falcon 9 rockets have flown five missions for SpaceX, but this was the first to fly six times.
Recovering rockets has become a hallmark of SpaceX flights, designed to slash the cost of missions by reusing the equipment in future launches.