SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket completes record 10th successful launch, landing
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently shared a historic achievement for SpaceX on Twitter. On May 9, a Falcon 9 rocket called B1051 successfully completed 10 launches and landings. This is the first booster rocket in the company's fleet to achieve this feat as it put another batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. The rocket is expected to be refurbished for continued missions.
At 06:42 hours GMT, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch complex 40 of the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station with a payload of 60 Starlink satellites. This bunch will join the growing web of such satellites to provide low-latency internet to the remotest corners of the world. This is SpaceX's 14th launch this year, the second one in a week.
Every SpaceX launch so far in 2021 has reused rocket
Interestingly, this Starlink launch is reportedly the 118th Falcon 9 flight and the company's 64th use for a refurbished booster. In fact, each and every SpaceX launch in 2021 so far has relied on a booster rocket that has flown previously.
Musk estimated Falcon 9 could fly 100 times before retirement
In fact, earlier Space.com had reported that Musk expected each Falcon 9 rocket to fly 10 times with little maintenance between flights and up to 100 times before decommissioning. The B1051 Falcon 9 rocket first flew in 2019 when it launched an unmanned Crew Dragon capsule as a test flight for NASA's Commercial Crew Program. It has also flown seven Starlink missions.
SpaceX owes smaller gap between launches to Falcon 9 upgrades
SpaceX has reportedly outfitted Falcon 9 rockets with many upgrades to achieve this level of reusability with its launch vehicle. Some of the upgrades are more robust thermal protection systems, titanium grid fins, more powerful engines, and a more durable interstage that joins the rocket's first stage to its upper stage. The reusability allows SpaceX to maintain smaller gaps between launches.
Rocket fairings will be recovered from sea by Shelia Bordelon
Speaking of Starlink, the satellite internet service is currently beta testing with a handful of users in the US. Meanwhile, both fairing halves of the B1051 Falcon 9 rocket will be recovered from the sea by SpaceX's newest fleet member called the Shelia Bordelon. Last month, the company had decommissioned two recovery vessels that had failed to "catch" fairings as they fell to Earth.