SpaceX confirms that its ninth launch of 2022 was a success, meaning that the company has now completed nine orbital launches in less than nine weeks.
Right on schedule, a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from SpaceX’s Kennedy Space Center LC-39A pad at 9:35 am EST (14:35 UTC), March 3rd, carrying 47 Starlink V1.5 satellites to a low Earth orbit (LEO) slightly higher than past missions. At the cost of removing a handful of satellites from the ‘stack,’ that higher insertion orbit is likely intended to reduce the risk of a reoccurrence of a space weather event that caused almost three-dozen Starlink satellites to reenter prematurely last month. Regardless, Falcon 9 performed nominally and deployed all 47 Starlink satellites about an hour after liftoff.
Meanwhile, the rocket’s first stage – B1060 – successfully landed aboard drone ship Just Read The Instructions (JRTI), returning the ship to service after more than two months of downtime and simultaneously completing its eleventh orbital-class launch. As previously discussed on Teslarati, that makes B1060 the third Falcon 9 booster to launch eleven times.
“Additionally, SpaceX has confirmed that Falcon 9 B1060 will launch Starlink 4-9. The mission will be its 11th launch and landing attempt, hopefully making it the third Falcon 9 booster to successfully support 11 orbital-class launches after B1051 and B1058. Together, that means that 3 (15%) of the 19 Falcon 9 Block 5 boosters SpaceX has debuted will have singlehandedly supported 33 (37%) of the 89 Falcon 9 launches the company has completed since May 2018. It’s difficult to imagine a more resounding affirmation of SpaceX’s work on reusability.”
Teslarati.com — March 1st, 2022
Following in the footsteps of B1058, which completed its 10th and 11th launches in just 39 days, B1060 spent just 43 days between its 10th and 11th launches, meaning that there’s a chance that both boosters could complete their 16th, 17th, or even 18th launches before the end of 2022. On average, SpaceX aims to launch at least once per week (52 launches) in 2022, leaving plenty of opportunities for the fittest boosters to push the envelope. Fittingly, Starlink 4-9 was SpaceX’s ninth launch in less than nine weeks, leaving SpaceX firmly on track to accomplish its goal of launching 52+ Falcon rockets this year.
SpaceX is already preparing for its 10th launch of the year and a Falcon 9 rocket is reportedly scheduled to lift off with Starlink 4-10 – likely another batch of 47 satellites – no earlier than (NET) 7:47 am EST (12:47 UTC) on Tuesday, March 8th. Launch photographer Ben Cooper also reports that SpaceX will launch at least one more Starlink mission in “mid to late March.” The focus will then shift towards SpaceX’s first private Crew Dragon astronaut launch to the International Space Station, which remains on track to lift off on March 30th.