SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 2 satellites on record-tying 20th flight (video)

SpaceX just tied its rocket-reuse record for the second time in less than a week.

A Falcon 9 rocket launched two Earth-observation satellites for the company Maxar today (May 2) from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 2:36 p.m. EDT (1836 GMT; 11:36 a.m. local California time).

It was the 20th mission for this rocket's first stage, tying a record that one Falcon 9 set last month and another one equaled on Saturday night (April 27).

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches two satellites for the company Maxar from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base on May 2, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth safely yet again today, making a vertical touchdown back at Vandenberg about 8.5 minutes after liftoff.

The rocket's upper stage, meanwhile, continued carrying two of Maxar's WorldView Legion satellites to orbit. The first spacecraft will be deployed 13 minutes after launch, and the second will follow suit 3.5 minutes after that.

The WorldView Legion satellites are built by Maxar Space Systems and will be operated by Maxar Intelligence, both of which are divisions of Maxar Technologies. The spacecraft that went up today are the first two of a planned six-satellite network. 

"When all six WorldView Legion satellites are launched, it will triple Maxar Intelligence's capacity to collect 30-centimeter-class [12 inches] and multispectral imagery," Maxar representatives wrote in a description of the network.

"The full Maxar constellation of 10 electro-optical satellites will image the most rapidly changing areas on Earth as frequently as every 20 to 30 minutes, from sunup to sundown," they added.

The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits at California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base on May 2, 2024. The booster landed shortly after launching two satellites for the company Maxar from the site. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Today's mission, which SpaceX called Maxar 1, is part of a busy day for Elon Musk's company. For example, it also plans to launch 23 of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit from Florida tonight

And early this morning, the four astronauts of SpaceX's Crew-8 astronaut mission moved their Dragon capsule from one International Space Station docking port to another. The maneuver made room for Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, which will launch to the orbiting lab on May 6.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 3 p.m. ET on May 2 with news of successful launch and rocket landing.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with 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.