A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched for an unprecedented 15th time on Saturday (Dec. 17), extending the company's reusability record.
The rocket's first stage came back to Earth just under nine minutes later, landing on a SpaceX robotic droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
"Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Just Read the Instructions droneship, completing the 15th launch and landing of this booster!" SpaceX tweeted (opens in new tab) just after the touchdown.
The rocket's upper stage continued hauling the 54 Starlink craft to low Earth orbit, deploying them all about 15.5 minutes after launch as planned, SpaceX confirmed via Twitter (opens in new tab).
Starlink is SpaceX's huge and ever-growing constellation of broadband satellites, which beam internet service to people around the world.
The company has already launched more than 3,500 Starlink spacecraft to date and intends to loft many more. SpaceX applied for permission from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to deploy nearly 30,000 of its next-generation Starlink 2.0 satellites, which the company aims to loft primarily using its Starship deep-space transportation system. The FAA recently granted approval for 7,500 of those spacecraft but is reserving judgment on the rest.
Saturday's launch was the third in two days for SpaceX. On Friday (Dec. 16), a Falcon 9 launched the SWOT water-watching satellite for NASA from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base, and another lofted two satellites for European telecom company SES from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 5:05 p.m. EST on Dec. 17 with news of the successful launch 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 search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).