SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites on record 21st flight (video)


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched for the 21st time tonight (May 17), setting a new reusability record for the company.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 8:32 p.m. EDT (0032 GMT on May 18), sending 23 of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites toward orbit.

The Falcon 9’s first stage came back to Earth about 8.5 minutes after liftoff as planned, touching down on the SpaceX drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Related: Starlink satellite train: How to see and track it in the night sky

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 23 Starlink satellites from Florida on May 17, 2024. It was the record 21st liftoff for the Falcon 9's first stage..A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 23 Starlink satellites from Florida on May 17, 2024. It was the record 21st liftoff for the Falcon 9's first stage..

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 23 Starlink satellites from Florida on May 17, 2024. It was the record 21st liftoff for the Falcon 9’s first stage..

It was the 21st launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description. That set a new record, which may well be tied multiple times in the near future; two Falcon 9 first stages currently have 20 flights under their belts.

The Falcon 9’s upper stage, meanwhile, continued carrying the 23 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit, deploying them there about 65 minutes after liftoff as planned.

A rocket launch carves an orange arc into a dark night sky in this long-exposure photo.A rocket launch carves an orange arc into a dark night sky in this long-exposure photo.

A rocket launch carves an orange arc into a dark night sky in this long-exposure photo.

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Tonight’s liftoff was the 51st orbital mission of 2024 already for SpaceX, which aims to launch about 150 times before the year is out.

Thirty-six of those 51 orbital launches have been devoted to building out the Starlink broadband megaconstellation, which currently consists of more than 5,900 operational satellites.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:20 p.m. ET on May 17 with news of successful launch, rocket landing and satellite deployment.



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