SpaceX launched 47 satellites and landed the return rocket on Thursday morning (March 3).
One step in two steps Falcon 9 rocket carrying 47 Stellar Link Internet satellites launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday at 9:35 a.m. EST (1435 GMT). About nine minutes later, the Falcon 9 upper stage returned to Earth for a vertical landing on the SpaceX Just Read the Instructions drone, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the coast of Florida.
The successful landing was the 11th for the booster, tying a SpaceX rocket reuse record.
Related: Launch of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite megaconstellation in photos
The booster previously launched the GPS III mission SV03 in June 2020, Turksat 5A in January 2021, Transporter 2 in June 2021 and seven other Starlink batches, SpaceX representatives said.
Such extensive flight is a priority for SpaceX and its founder and CEO, Elon Muskwho has often said that the full and rapid reuse of space hardware is the key breakthrough needed to help humanity colonize Mars and achieve other ambitious exploration goals.
Starlink is SpaceX’s satellite internet service, the first infrastructure of which was launched in 2019. The network recently made headlines when CEO Elon Musk sent 50 Starlink terminals to Ukraine, where a Russian invasion interfered with the ‘Internet access.
“By now, you may have heard that Starlink has been activated in Ukraine to facilitate internet access in that country,” SpaceX space operations engineer Siva Bharadvaj said during the launch broadcast.
“A few days ago, the Ukrainian government confirmed that the Starlink kits had arrived,” Bharadvaj said. “We’re told they’re already in use. We couldn’t be more proud of all the teams that have stepped up to make this effort a reality, as well as the many people who are thankfully supported. Thank you, and we hope this helps.”
Thursday’s launch was already SpaceX’s sixth Starlink mission of the year. All launches were successful, but the third mission, which lifted off on February 3, ended up being swept away by a solar storm. This solar explosion spawned a geomagnetic storm here on Earth, which increased the density of our atmosphere enough to bring down up to 40 of the 49 Starlink satelliteswhich had not yet reached operational altitude, SpaceX representatives said.
There will be many more Starlink launches in the weeks and months to come. The company has already delivered more than 2,000 Starlink spacecraft to low Earth orbit, but it has clearance to launch 12,000 satellites and has sought permission from an international regulator to launch up to 30,000 more.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Or on Facebook.