On Sunday, Elon Musk’s SpaceX conducted its 10th launch of the year, a mission that according to NASA, “broke the pad turnaround record for both Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and the overall record across all three Falcon 9 launch pads.”
This was the company’s 209th overall mission and dispatched a Falcon 9 rocket topped with 55 Starlink internet satellites into space. Falcon 9 is the world’s first orbital class reusable rocket, a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX, who proudly posted on Twitter Sunday morning “Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship – completing this booster’s 12th flight,” later announcing: “Deployment of 55 Starlink satellites confirmed.”
The launch on Sunday contributed to the development of the Starlink megaconstellation, which already has more than 3,500 operational satellites and is anticipated to expand significantly as SpaceX is authorized to launch 12,000 Starlink spacecraft and has requested permisson for an additional 30,000. “In 2022, SpaceX launched 61 missions into orbit, breaking the company’s previous record of 31 missions set in 2021. So far in 2023, the company is on pace to break its own record again. Based on the launch cadence achieved in January and early February, SpaceX could easily pass the 80-launch mark this year,” writes NASA.
Meanwhile, the second mission of the week, Starlink Group 2-5, is slated to launch at 8:32 AM PST (16:32 UTC) on Wednesday, Feb. 15 from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Also, last week, SpaceX made a milestone test, attempting to fire up all 33 engines on the 230 feet tall Super Heavy booster; 31 of those fully lit up, producing 7.9 million lbf of thrust (~3,600 metric tons) – less than half of the booster’s capability. “Team turned off 1 engine just before start & 1 stopped itself, so 31 engines fired overall. But still enough engines to reach orbit!” Musk tweeted afterwards.