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A SpaceX rocket just set a new flight record

A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster launching for the 21st time in May 2024.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster launches for the 21st time in May 2024. SpaceX

SpaceX has launched and landed a first-stage Falcon 9 booster for a record 21st time.

The record-breaking mission got underway from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday night and deployed 23 Starlink internet satellites into orbit.

The first-stage booster supporting the mission previously launched GPS III Space Vehicle 04, GPS III Space Vehicle 05, Inspiration4, Ax-1, Nilesat 301, OneWeb Launch 17, ARABSAT BADR-8, and 13 (now 14) Starlink missions.

The achievement highlights SpaceX’s groundbreaking flight system that allows it to reuse its first-stage Falcon 9 booster by landing it back on the ground — or sometimes on a barge floating off the coast — a few minutes after launch. Following a check and refurbishment, the booster can fly again, helping SpaceX to cut its spaceflight costs.

The record-breaking booster, B1062, took its first flight in November 2020 and could still have many more flights ahead of it.

SpaceX shared a video of the booster climbing skyward after launching from Kennedy a couple of days ago:

Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/caAsrsKUyH

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 18, 2024

Just over eight minutes after launch, the booster touched down on a barge waiting in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast:

Falcon 9 completes its first 21st launch and landing! pic.twitter.com/m77JbAdNKJ

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 18, 2024

SpaceX chief Elon Musk also shared a dramatic image showing the Falcon 9 rocket heading to orbit, as seen from the ocean:

Falcon going to orbit as seen from ocean pic.twitter.com/Dclhju24ya

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 18, 2024

Two other first-stage Falcon 9 boosters recently reached 20 flights, suggesting the record-breaking B1062 booster may soon be overtaken, depending on refurbishment times and flight schedules.

SpaceX has already completed 51 Falcon 9 missions this year. This time last year, the number stood at 32 — at the time a record — suggesting that it’s very much on course to fly more missions than ever in a single calendar year, all thanks to its workhorse Falcon 9 booster.

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