A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday launched 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit early and then stuck a landing at sea to cap a record 10th flight for the company’s reusable booster.
The veteran Falcon 9 rocket blasted off before dawn from Space Launch Complex 40 here at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 2:42 a.m. EDT (06.42 GMT), marking the company’s 14th launch of the year.
It was also one for the record books as the flight was this particular booster’s 10th launch and landing attempt, the company said in a statement.
The rocket’s once pristine exterior was almost black, charred by its many trips to orbit and back.
“First time a Falcon rocket booster will reach double digits in flights,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter on Saturday before launch.
The successful liftoff marked the second time SpaceX launched one of its 229-foot-tall (70 meters) workhorse Falcon 9 rockets within the same week, each carrying a full stack of 60 flat-paneled Starlink broadband satellites.
“SpaceX’s first reuse of an orbital class rocket was on the SES-10 mission way back in March of 2017,” SpaceX supply chain supervisor Michael Andrews said in a live webcast.
Approximately nine minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s first stage returned to Earth, touching down on SpaceX’s drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” for a record 10th successful landing.
Onlookers were treated to quite the spectacle as the rocket lit up the pre-dawn sky as it climbed to orbit. Clear skies above Florida’s Space Coast made for prime viewing conditions.