CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a new batch of 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit on Wednesday afternoon (April 7) and nailed a landing at sea to top off a successful mission.
“Falcon 9 has successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station carrying our stack of Starlink satellites to orbit,” Jessie Anderson, a SpaceX manufacturing engineer, said during a live webcast of the launch.
Approximately nine minutes later, the rocket’s first stage returned to Earth, touching down on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You,” for its seventh successful landing.
SpaceX is continuing the rapid launch pace set last year, as the Hawthorne, California-based rocket builder celebrated its 10th launch so far in 2021. The majority of those launches have been SpaceX’s own Starlink satellites, as the company inches closer to filling its initial internet constellation of 1,440 broadband satellites.
Though that constellation could eventually be tens of thousands of satellites strong as SpaceX has permission to launch as many as 30,000, with an option for even more.
Forecasters at the 45th Space Wing’s Weather Squadron predicted favorable conditions at launch and the weather did not disappoint. It was nothing but blue skies over the space coast today as the Falcon 9 rocket climbed to orbit.
The booster for today’s launch, called B1058, is one of SpaceX’s fleet of flight-proven boosters. The veteran flier now has seven launches and landings under its belt and is quickly rising up as one of the fleet leaders.
The iconic red worm logo was created in the 1970s and used for a time before the space agency leaned solely on its other iconic symbol — the NASA meatball.
While the meatball is still the main logo, NASA has opted to feature the worm on its crewed missions. The once bright red script is now dark and sooty, a result of its many trips to space and back.
B1058 was the first commercial rocket to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s commercial crew program. It’s historic first flight, the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission, which blasted off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center here in Florida on May 30, 2020, marked the first time astronauts blasted off from U.S. soil since the end of the shuttle program in 2011.
After that, the booster flew a second time in July 2020, delivering a communications satellite into space for South Korea’s military.
The booster also delivered the first upgraded Dragon cargo capsule to the space station in December 2020 and made history again in January as the booster to deliver the most satellites in a single payload into orbit. That rideshare mission, dubbed Transporter-1, deposited a record 143 small satellites into space. (The previous record was held by India’s space agency for launching 104 small satellites in 2017.)
This is the 113th overall flight for Falcon 9, and the 59th flight of a used, refurbished booster. In fact, every single SpaceX launch so far in…