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SpaceX is gearing up for a record-breaking rocket flight

A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster coming in to land.
A reusable first-stage Falcon 9 booster coming in to land. SpaceX / SpaceX

SpaceX is expected to launch one of its first-stage Falcon 9 boosters for a record 20th time in the coming weeks.

The feat will highlight the spaceflight company’s achievement in creating a reusable rocket system that’s helped to revolutionize orbital missions for NASA, various government agencies, and a host of private companies that never would have been able to afford access to orbit before SpaceX’s arrival.

SpaceX reuses its first-stage boosters by landing them upright back at the launch site, or on a droneship, less than 10 minutes after launch. They’re then checked over and refurbished before their next flight.

Falcon 9 booster 1061 took its maiden flight on November 15, 2020, launching the first operational mission involving the Crew Dragon capsule, as well as four astronauts, on a flight to the International Space Station. It also launched the Crew-2 mission with four astronauts in April 2021. The booster’s most recent flight took place on February 23, and with a turnaround time for recent flights of about 40 days — and just 25 days in one case — its record-breaking mission shouldn’t be too far away.

Booster 1061 currently shares the record of 19 launches with Booster 1058, but the operations of the latter were brought to an abrupt end after it toppled over after landing on the droneship as it traveled back to shore in rough seas in December of last year, with part of the 42.-1-meter-tall booster ending up in the ocean.

Of course, it’s possible that another Falcon 9 booster could breeze past 1061, as boosters 1060 and 1062 have each flown 18 times, while 1067 has lifted off 17 times.

SpaceX has six Falcon 9 missions planned for the rest of March and at least three for April, so a new record could conceivably be achieved in that time.

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