SpaceX is the only company in the world capable of reusing orbital-class rocket boosters reliably. SpaceX has a fleet of reusable first-stage Falcon 9 boosters that have enabled the company to reduce the cost of spaceflight. To date, the company has launched 148 missions and recovered orbital-class rocket boosters 110 times by landing on autonomous sea-going droneships and on landing pads. Out of the rockets recovered it has reused Falcon 9 first-stage boosters 87 times.
SpaceX set a goal to reuse Falcon 9 [Block 5] boosters in the fleet at least 10 times. Three boosters in the fleet have already surpassed the milestone with 11 flights each. Company officials previously said that reusing a first-stage at least ten times significantly reduces the cost of spaceflight. A Falcon 9 booster can be reflown up to 100 times with refurbishment in between flights. It is unclear how many times SpaceX plans to reuse each booster long-term, however, it is clear that SpaceX engineers are not afraid to push the boundaries of spaceflight. The company could refly boosters until they see some kind of failure. The lessons learned from developing and launching flight-proven Falcon 9 boosters are valuable for the development of the fully-reusable Starship launch system.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will be reused a record-breaking 12th time during the upcoming Starlink Group 4-12 mission that will launch a total of 53 internet-beaming satellites to orbit on Friday, March 18. The eleven-times-flown Falcon 9 first-stage booster is identified as B1051-12; It will lift off a twelfth time at 11:24 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Booster B1051-12 previously launched Dragon’s first crew demonstration mission to the International Space Station, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, Sirius SXM-7, and eight Starlink missions. SpaceX will attempt to recover the booster a 12th time by landing it on the 'Just Read the Instructions' droneship that will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 635-kilometers downrange. UPDATE: Launch delayed due to unfavorable weather weather, now targeting a new T-0 of 12:42 a.m. ET.
Due to unfavorable weather, now targeting a new T-0 of 12:42 a.m. ET for our upcoming Falcon 9 launch of Starlink satellites → https://t.co/bJFjLCzWdK— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 19, 2022
SpaceX is working to deploy Phase 1 of the Starlink broadband constellation that involves launching 4,408 satellites into five orbital ‘shells’ each with different orbital parameters, details shown in the table below. The upcoming Starlink Group 4-12 mission is set to deploy 53 Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit, it will mark the twelfth batch launched into orbital Shell 4. The satellites in this particular group will operate in the constellation’s Shell 4 that consists of arranging a total of 1,584 satellites into 72 orbital planes with 22 satellites in each plane operating at an equatorial inclination of 53.2° degrees and altitude of 540-kilometers. As of today, SpaceX has launched 11 missions into Shell 4, around 30 launches will be required to complete the orbital shell. SpaceX currently operates around 2,059 satellites that operate across Shell 1, Shell 2, and Shell 4. Watch SpaceX launch a Falcon 9 an 12th time during the Starlink Group 4-12 mission Live in the video linked below.
WATCH IT LIVE!
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.