SpaceX to Launch Falcon 9 Booster on Record-Breaking 21st Flight – Spaceflight Now

A SpaceX Falcon 9 second stage creates a so-called “jellyfish effect” as it flies through the sky above the Atlantic Ocean and a cruise ship on the horizon. The Starlink 6-59 mission launched on May 17, 2024. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now

SpaceX reached a new reusability milestone with its Falcon 9 rocket on Friday evening with a Starlink launch from Florida. The first stage booster, tail number B1062, launched for the 21st time, the first in SpaceX’s rocket fleet to do so.

The launch of the Starlink 6-59 mission added 23 additional satellites to the growing Internet constellation in low Earth orbit and was the company’s 36th dedicated Starlink launch of the year.

Since its debut in November 2020, B1062 has launched two GPS satellites, eight astronauts over two missions (Inspiration4 and Ax-1) and thirteen Starlink flights. To date, it has sent 553 payloads into space, including the two Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Prior to the May 17 flight, it was last launched about a month ago on the Starlink 6-49 mission. Like last time, B1062 landed on the SpaceX drone ship about 8.5 minutes after launch, ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas.’ This was the 70th booster landing with ASOG and the 309th Falcon 9 booster landing to date.

According to the latest statistics published by expert orbital tracker and astronomer Jonathan McDowell, as of the morning of May 17, there were a total of 6,017 Starlink satellites in orbit and 5,941 in use.

Prior to the launch of the Starlink 6-59 mission, a total of 6,436 satellites were launched to LEO, including 788 in 2024.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 second stage creates a so-called “jellyfish effect” as it flies through the sky above the Atlantic Ocean and a cruise ship on the horizon. The Starlink 6-59 mission launched on May 17, 2024. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now

Development of Starship Flight Four

As SpaceX prepared to launch the Falcon 9 on Friday evening, it has also been busy in south Texas working on the fourth integrated flight test of its Starship rocket.

The nearly 400-foot-tall rocket was stacked onto the launch pad of SpaceX’s Starbase facility on Wednesday, May 15. The next day it conducted a partial wet dress rehearsal, practicing loading liquid methane and liquid oxygen on board the vehicle.

A launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would allow the vehicle’s next flight test is still pending, but in a May 11 response to for five weeks” away.

At an event hosted by the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation on May 14, Kathy Leuders, general manager of Starbase at SpaceX, said they are working to have a license in place by the end of May or early June.

“We will be ready as always. We are going to have the vehicle stacked and the first day we get that driver’s license, we are going to fly,” says Leuders.

She also noted in her talk that they also started testing Starship rockets after the fourth flight. In response to a question from the audience, she discussed an issue with Ship 31 captured by LabPadre’s cameras, which shows a pulsating flash light coming from the rocket.

“We were testing our next round of vehicles, the next round of Starships and we had a test anomaly that we are now assessing and understanding what that means,” Leaders said. “We’re always working on vehicles, but if there’s a problem with a vehicle that’s in the air, you want to make sure you can separate the source of that problem from your getaway vehicle. And so what the teams are doing now is really going in and saying, is it exactly the same design? Is there any other reason for us to split up to make sure we don’t go into a flight test while there’s a problem?

While SpaceX has not commented further on the anomaly, by moving forward with the wet dress rehearsal on May 16 they have likely resolved the issue or are comfortable that it would not impact Ship 29, which is used on IFT -4.

Ship 29 is stacked atop Booster 11 ahead of a wet dress rehearsal refueling test of the fully integrated Starship rocket on May 16, 2024. Image: SpaceX

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