In an impressive display of space technology and reusability, SpaceX added another 21 Starlink internet satellites to its ever-expanding constellation. The mission took place in the early hours of Tuesday, September 12, as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared to life at California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base.
The launch, which occurred at 2:57 a.m. EDT (0657 GMT), was shrouded in the coastal fog but proceeded as planned. Notably, this liftoff coincided with 11:57 p.m. local California time on September 11, showcasing the precision and coordination involved in such space endeavors.
What makes this launch even more remarkable is the successful return of the Falcon 9’s first stage. Approximately 8.5 minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s first stage executed a flawless landing on the SpaceX droneship named “Of Course I Still Love You.” This landing marked the 11th mission for this particular first-stage booster, highlighting SpaceX’s commitment to rocket reusability.
Following the rocket’s return to Earth, the upper stage of the Falcon 9 took over, deploying the 21 Starlink satellites into orbit approximately 62 minutes after liftoff. This deployment is a crucial step in SpaceX’s mission to expand the Starlink constellation, which aims to provide global internet coverage.
This launch also carries significant significance for SpaceX’s impressive launch schedule. It marked the 64th launch of 2023, surpassing the company’s previous record of 61 launches set in the preceding year. SpaceX’s prolific launch pace solidifies its position as a leader in the global space industry.
Moreover, SpaceX has emerged as a dominant player in space missions this year, surpassing other space agencies and companies worldwide. The majority of its launches have been dedicated to advancing the Starlink megaconstellation, a groundbreaking project aimed at revolutionizing global internet accessibility.
The operational Starlink satellites currently in orbit have exceeded 4,600, as confirmed by astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who diligently tracks the constellation on his website. Looking ahead, SpaceX envisions expanding this constellation even further, with potential plans to include as many as 42,000 satellites over the long term.
This successful SpaceX mission reinforces the company’s commitment to advancing space technology and expanding global internet coverage, marking yet another milestone in the journey toward a connected world.