SpaceX is aiming to launch more rockets in 2022 than it has in any year past, and with today’s successful Starlink launch, it’s well on its way to reaching that goal.
The Starlink 4-9 mission lifted off at 9:25 AM EST (6:25 AM PST) from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and was SpaceX’s ninth of a planned 52 launches this year. That’s an impressive launch cadence of about one per week, aligning with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s dedication to rapid reusability.
Today’s mission was flown by Falcon 9 booster “B1060,” which landed aboard the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” in the Atlantic Ocean approximately nine minutes after launch. With the successful launch and landing, B1060 is now tied for the most rocket reuses at SpaceX — it has completed 11 flights since its debut in June 2020.
B1060 successfully carried to orbit 47 Starlink satellites that have now joined 2,000-plus others in the program’s first-generation constellation orbiting Earth, providing high-speed, low-latency internet across the globe, even in remote regions. Starlink is currently approved to expand its constellation to 12,000 satellites, though SpaceX has applied to launch a further 30,000.
Starlink 4-9 was SpaceX’s sixth Starlink launch of the year, but not all of the missions were entirely successful. On February 3, a launch brought 49 Starlink satellites to space, but 38 of them failed to reach their intended orbit due to a geomagnetic storm, burning up as they re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. SpaceX maintains that the issue is not a major setback.
“We have the capacity to build up to 45 satellites per week, and we have launched up to 240 satellites in a single month,” the company said in a February 22 statement about Starlink’s sustainability and safety.