SpaceX’s Starlink mission on Sunday, May 9 was more than just another satellite deployment; it also marked a new milestone for reusable Falcon 9 rockets.
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Starlink successfully sent 60 satellites into orbit on Sunday, which will be used to deliver high-speed internet service across the globe.
According to SpaceX, this could be a gamechanger for people in remote areas, where traditional internet service can be unreliable or unavailable.
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Starlink satellites orbit the Earth at a much lower altitude than other satellites, which enables lower latency, and thus a faster connection to the web.
This launch was just the latest in a rush of recent deployments, as Starlink is building a network capable of moving from its current beta state to full service.
It was the 10th launch for the Falcon 9 first stage booster that carried the satellites to space, setting a new reuse record for SpaceX.
The same booster has flown a Crew Dragon demonstration, propelled seven batches of Starlink satellites into orbit, and launched RADARSAT and Sirius XM satellites into space.
SpaceX even sent NASA’s Crew-2 astronauts to the International Space Station on a recycled Falcon 9 in late April.
The first successful Falcon 9 landing came in December 2015. Just over a year later, in March 2017, SpaceX reused a booster for the first time, with the launch of the SES-10 satellite.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said Falcon 9 boosters could be reused 10 times without major refurbishment and more than 100 before they’re scrapped.
Past the 10-launch milestone, Musk says SpaceX will push Falcon 9 boosters until they fail, though not on crewed missions.
Reusable rockets are a big deal for SpaceX. It’s much cheaper — not to mention less wasteful — to reuse rockets than to build a new one for each mission.
That’s good for more than just SpaceX’s bottom line. Cheaper launches could make it more feasible to build and resupply proposed human settlements on the Moon and Mars.
But to reach that stage, SpaceX will have to prove that its Starship’s Super Heavy booster is as resilient as the Falcon 9.
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