SpaceX launched 22 of its Starlink internet satellites toward orbit early Friday (July 28) and landed the returning rocket at sea.
The Falcon 9's first stage came back for a landing about 8.5 minutes after liftoff as planned, touching down on the SpaceX droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas. It was the 15th launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description.
That's just one short of SpaceX's reuse record, which is currently held by two different Falcon 9 first stages.
The Falcon 9's upper stage, meanwhile, continued hauling the 22 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. It will deploy them there about 65 minutes after liftoff.
SLD 45 has the opportunity to make history tonight, as we support two launches between 02:04 UTC and 04:44 UTC. This could represent the shortest time between launches from the ER on record. The previous was 1 hour 37 minutes on Sept. 12, 1966 when Gemini 11 & Titan-11 launched. pic.twitter.com/4GyOULazSJJuly 27, 2023
Friday's Starlink launch was supposed to be part of a record-breaking doubleheader: SpaceX had been planning to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, which is next door to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, on Thursday (July 27) at 11:04 p.m. EDT (0304 GMT on July 28).
The Starlink launch was originally scheduled to occur Thursday at 10:20 p.m. EDT (0220 GMT on Friday), but SpaceX pushed the attempt back a bit, presumably to wait out the weather.
If the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets had both gone up on time Thursday, the 44-minute gap would have been the shortest ever between two launches from the U.S. East Coast. The current mark is 97 minutes, set way back in 1966.
But SpaceX called off Thursday's planned Heavy liftoff, citing the need to "complete vehicle checkouts." The company is now planning to launch the Falcon Heavy mission on Friday night.