SpaceX breaks its own record, launching Falcon 9 for the 18th time

23 Starlink satellites joined the constellation after they were successfully launched into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, which was flying for a record-breaking 18th time.

Falcon 9 Booster 1058 launched Friday at 8:37 p.m. ET, roughly halfway through the launch window, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, carrying 23 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.

B1058 is one of the Falcon 9’s most historic boosters, launching NASA astronauts Bob and Doug to the International Space Station on its inaugural flight in May 2020, which returned American astronauts to the space station on an American-made rocket for the first time. Since NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011.

Since that historic launch, B1058 has gone on to launch 13 Starlink missions (with various engagement flights), two transport missions, one dedicated satellite communications mission, and one resupply mission to the International Space Station, and is responsible for delivering a total of 844 satellites to orbit.

As for its final launch, B1058 landed aboard the “A Shortfall of Gravitas” drone after its portion of the mission and returned to Port Canaveral ready for potential flight 19. It took SpaceX just 45 days to rotate the booster between flights. 17 and 18, indicating that they have streamlined their refit process to get the most experienced boosters in the fleet.

Although SpaceX has maintained a high cadence of launches, that has not slowed its progress on the new Crew Tower being built that will enable NASA and SpaceX to launch astronauts or return missions from LC-39A or SLC-40. Over the past two months, parts of the tower have been moved from the construction area next to Hangar X to SLC-40, with work being carried out between launches.

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SpaceX hopes to have the tower ready for launch in 2024, which will initially begin with resupply missions to the International Space Station, but with SpaceX and its pace, they will likely be able to launch a crew sooner rather than later.

Next for SpaceX this week is another Starlink mission from Florida no later than 11 PM ET tomorrow, a Transporter mission from California no later than 1:47 PM PT on the 9th, and a CRS-29 resupply mission to the station ISS from LC-39A at 8:28 p.m. ET.

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