Elon Musk’s SpaceX achieved yet another milestone on February 21. It has successfully landed a Falcon 9 rocket back on Earth for the 100th time after deploying its payload into orbit. The rocket was launched from Florida, US, at 8:14pm IST, carrying 46 Starlink satellites. About nine minutes later, the rocket’s first stage (booster) returned to Earth for a vertical touchdown on a SpaceX drone ship, A Shortfall of Gravitas (ASOG), stationed a few hundred kilometres off the Florida coast. The successful return marked the 100th time SpaceX has been able to recover Falcon 9’s first stage for future reuse.
SpaceX has created history by launching the world’s first orbital-class rocket capable of re-flight. Named Falcon 9, the rocket made its first test flight in June 2010. With Falcon 9 and its reusability, the Elon Musk-owned company is able to offer lower-cost options to companies wanting to gain access to space.
So far, SpaceX has carried out 140 launches of the Falcon 9 and landed 100 of them.
With the latest aunch, SpaceX also inched closer to its goal of offering low-latency broadband Internet service across the globe. An hour after the launch, the company confirmed the deployment of Starlink satellites in a tweet.
SpaceX has launched Starlink satellites three times this year so far. Two in January and one was launched in February. The February 3 mission, however, was hit by a solar eruption that triggered a geomagnetic storm. The storm damaged at least 40 of the 49 satellites launched in that mission.
The company eventually aims to operate a constellation of more than 12,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit as part of the Starlink project. While the damage to 40 satellites may appear to be minor when compared to the thousands planned, it still would force SpaceX to make one more Falcon launch than previously planned.
SpaceX has launched about 2,100 Starlink satellites to orbit so far.