SpaceX is set to break its own record for rocket reuse with the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 23 Starlink internet satellites. The mission, scheduled for today at 6:30 p.m. EDT from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, will mark the 18th flight for this particular Falcon 9 first stage.
In the event of a missed launch window, backup opportunities are available throughout the evening. Viewers can watch the live coverage on SpaceX’s X account (formerly known as Twitter) starting five minutes before liftoff.
After liftoff, the Falcon 9 first stage will return to Earth for yet another vertical landing. The landing is expected to take place about 8.5 minutes after launch on the drone ship named A Shortfall of Gravitas, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 upper stage will continue its mission to deploy the 23 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. Deployment is expected to occur approximately 65.5 minutes after liftoff.
SpaceX, led by CEO Elon Musk, has a strong emphasis on rocket reuse as a means to enable ambitious exploration endeavors, including colonization of Mars. The company has been consistently pushing the boundaries of rocket reuse, with its current record of 17 flights set in September and tied just four days later.
Many of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 missions have been dedicated to expanding the Starlink megaconstellation, a broadband network comprised of nearly 5,000 operational satellites. The Falcon 9 launching today has already completed 12 previous Starlink missions.
With this upcoming launch, SpaceX continues to demonstrate the potential of reusable spaceflight hardware, bringing us closer to a future of more efficient and sustainable space exploration.