A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket flew for a record-tying 13th time on Thursday morning (July 7) in a flawless launch.
A Falcon 9 topped with 53 of SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites lifted off at 9:11 a.m. EDT (1311 GMT) on Thursday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. About 8.5 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth for a touchdown on the SpaceX droneship Just Read the Instructions stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
SpaceX ended its broadcast before the 53 Starlink satellites onboard were deployed into low Earth orbit by the rocket's upper stage, but that milestone also went smoothly, company representatives confirmed on Twitter (opens in new tab).
It was the 13th mission for this Falcon 9's first stage, tying a reuse record the company set just last month on another Starlink launch.
The booster previously helped launch SpaceX's first-ever crewed flight, the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station in 2020; a robotic cargo mission to the orbiting lab; two "rideshare" missions that each lofted dozens of satellites; South Korea's ANASIS-II military communications satellite; and seven other Starlink batches, SpaceX representatives wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab).
Such extensive reflight is a big priority for SpaceX and its founder and CEO, Elon Musk, who has long stressed that full and rapid rocket reuse is the key breakthrough needed to unlock the exploration of the cosmos. (The Falcon 9 is not fully reusable — its upper stage is expendable — but SpaceX's next-generation space transportation system, Starship, will be, if all goes to plan.)
Starlink is SpaceX's huge constellation of broadband satellites. The company has already launched more than 2,700 Starlink spacecraft to low Earth orbit, and many more will likely get there in the near future: SpaceX has permission to launch 12,000 Starlink satellites, and it has applied for approval to loft up to 30,000 more on top of that.
SpaceX has now launched 28 orbital missions in 2022, 16 of which have been dedicated Starlink flights. In addition, today marked the 50th Starlink launch and the 100th Falcon 9 reflight, according to SpaceX.
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 on Facebook (opens in new tab).