SpaceX set a new record for reuse of a rocket booster this week when it used a Falcon 9 booster for its 12th mission. The booster was used as part of the company’s Starlink launch which carried 53 satellites into orbit to join the Starlink satellite constellation.
The launch went ahead early on Saturday morning, at 12:42 a.m. ET on March 19 (21:42 p.m. PT on Friday, March 18) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The 53 Starlink satellites were carried into low-Earth orbit by a Falcon 9, with the first stage booster marking its 12th launch and landing. This is the most times that a single booster has been reused to date, as SpaceX shared on Twitter.
This is the first time a Falcon 9 first stage has launched and landed 12 times!
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 19, 2022
The booster had previously been used on nine other Starlink missions, as well as the RADARSAT Constellation mission, and the famous Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission which was the first crewed demonstration of SpaceX’s new crew capsule in 2020.
With the launch of the 53 Starlink satellites, which were successfully deployed into orbit, the total number of Starlink satellites is now at over 2,300. These satellites work together to form a network that provides global broadband internet access via the Starlink program, which is currently in beta and is available in 29 countries. Customers purchase a special dish to access the service, which can then provide internet access even in remote or out of the way areas.
The hope is that such satellite internet services could provide internet to rural areas which are currently under-served by internet providers. Starlink has also been used to provide internet in emergency situations, such as after the eruption of the volcano in Tonga or during the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, the Starlink service and others like it have been controversial among the astronomy community. Researchers have found that having such a high number of satellites in low-Earth orbit can interfere with scientific observations due to sunlight reflecting off the satellites and radio interference. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has previously said he will work with the astronomy community to lessen the impact of the Starlink satellites on observations, including experimenting with darker coatings for the satellites and changing their positions so they reflect less sunlight.
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