SpaceX has put another 60 Starlink satellites into orbit – meaning it has sent a total of 180 satellites to join its 1,000-plus constellation in the past two weeks alone. Today’s launch also set a record for SpaceX for its Falcon 9 rocket reusability program, as it was the ninth flight and landing for this particular first stage booster.
The booster has previously been used for a variety of missions, including five previous Starlink launches as well as the Demo 1 mission for the company’s Crew Dragon capsule. This was the unscrewed test flight that proved that it would work as intended from takeoff to dock with the International Space Station and then return to Earth.
SpaceX set its previous reusability record back in January of this year – another Starlink launch – using the same refurbished first stage that had just flown last December. SpaceX not only wants to keep showing that it can re-fly these boosters more and more often, but that it can quickly flip them over for their next mission, as both speed and volume will have a significant impact on take-off costs.
Missile reuse is of particular concern when it comes to those Starlink missions that are becoming increasingly common as SpaceX pushes to increase the availability of its Starlink broadband internet service around the world. As mentioned earlier, this is the third launch of 60 satellites for the constellation in just 10 days – the last launch came on Thursday, and the first of that trio happened the previous Thursday.
From here, expect SpaceX to launch at roughly this pace in the near future, as two more Starlink launches are scheduled before March, including one tentatively slated for next Sunday. Since the company is its own customer for these missions, it gobbles up the cost of going to market (at least until Starlink goes live beyond the current beta and brings in more revenue). Hence, re-flying boosters is a great way to lower overall spend.