On July 9 at around a minute before midnight, SpaceX reached a new rocket reusability record during the Starlink Group 6-5 mission. A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 11:58 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida, carrying the fifth fleet of 22 Starlink V2 ‘Mini’ satellites. It marked the first time SpaceX reused a first-stage booster a 16th time. Engineers aim to certify each booster to fly at least 20 times – an incredible goal, given that most aerospace companies in all of history have used expendable rockets.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/R1w03m4N6o— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 10, 2023
SpaceX's groundbreaking achievement in rocket reusability has revolutionized the space industry, enabling rapid and cost-effective launches. This breakthrough has not only significantly reduced manufacturing expenses but has also shortened turnaround times between launches. By reusing rockets, SpaceX has proven that space exploration can be economically viable, opening doors to a new era of frequent and affordable space missions.
Soon after launching the fleet of Group 6-5 Starlink V2 Mini satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), the first-stage booster performed a propulsive landing on the ‘Just Read the Instructions’ autonomous spaceport drone ship which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. It marked the 16th launch and landing for the particular booster, identified as B1058-16, which previously launched: NASA Crew Demo-2 mission, ANASIS-II, NASA’s CRS-21 cargo mission to the International Space Station, SpaceX’s Transporter-1 and Transporter-3 rideshare missions, and eleven Starlink missions. Now, SpaceX has launched 245 missions, recovered a total of 206 orbital-class rockets, and reused boosters 179 times.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Just Read the Instructions droneship, completing the first 16th launch and landing of a booster pic.twitter.com/bT70Zu2aKl— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 10, 2023
The fleet of 22 Starlink V2 Mini satellites was released by Falcon 9’s upper-stage around an hour after liftoff. The satellites in this fleet belong to Group 6-5 which is the fifth fleet of the second-generation ‘mini’ satellites ever launched. “V2 minis include key technologies—such as more powerful phased array antennas and the use of E-band for backhaul—which will allow Starlink to provide ~4x more capacity per satellite than earlier iterations,” shared company representatives via Twitter. “This means Starlink can provide more bandwidth with increased reliability and connect millions of more people around the world with high-speed internet.”
This mission increased the Starlink constellation size to 4,432 satellites in LEO. SpaceX has approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 7,500 Starlink Gen2 satellites to orbit in the coming years. SpaceX is launching the ‘Mini’ version of these satellites atop Falcon 9 rockets, future versions of these Gen2 satellites will be much larger and heavier so will need to be launched atop Starship when it's operational.
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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.