By Dale Skran, NSS CEO
On January 20th SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. The first stage safely returned to Earth, landing on the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions.” Just another day on the Cape for SpaceX, completing the 17th Starlink launch.
However, this flight set a number of notable records:
- The 8th time a Falcon 9 first stage has launched a mission and been successfully recovered. The booster is designated B1051.8. This was the 51st Falcon 9 booster built.
- Both fairings were re-used, and one fairing half was being used for a third time.
- The fastest turnaround time between F9 flights yet – 39 days. This beats the previous record of 51 days held by B1060, and is well ahead of the Shuttle record of 54 days set by Atlantis in 1985.
- The drone ship landing occurred during high winds, and is considered to be “envelope expanding.”
A look at the past flights of B1051.8 suggests the diversity of the SpaceX customer base:
- Demo 1/crewed (NASA)
- Uncrewed Dragon 2 test flight (NASA)
- Starlink L3
- Starlink L6
- Starlink L9
- Starlink L13
- SXM-7 (SiriusXM)
The Falcon 9 first stage Block 5 has been designed for 10 re-flights without a major refurbishment. Today’s flight put SpaceX 80% of the way to this goal, with a very good chance a 10th flight will be achieved later this year.
Copyright 2021 Dale Skran
Image courtesy SpaceX