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SpaceX pushes the limits of the reusability of its boosters

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SpaceX is continuing the deployment of its Starlink constellation with the successful launch on May 4 of a second batch of sixty satellites in less than a week. Engineers are preparing for a new firing scheduled in a few days involving the tenth flight of the same booster. This is unheard of.

A Falcon 9 rocket took off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida this Tuesday, May 4 at 9:01 p.m. PST, marking SpaceX’s thirteenth launch of the year. On the occasion of the Star Wars Day (May the 4th, in reference to the famous line “May the force be with you“), The seventy-meter-high launcher was named after the Millennium Falcon, in reference to the iconic spaceship piloted Han Solo.

This pitcher, a veteran, had already eight flights to his credit. It is to date on second SpaceX booster to fly nine times. The Falcon then returned to land at sea about eight minutes later. The second stage of the rocket released its payload of sixty Starlink satellites just over an hour after launch.

This launch comes less than a week after the previous Starlink launch on April 28. Of the thirteen launches attempted and successful by the company so far this year, ten have been dedicated to Starlink satellites. To date, 1,500 of these structures are currently in orbit.

A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral on May 4, 2021. Credits: SpaceX

And ten!

SpaceX had previously suggested that its Falcon 9 boosters could fly up to ten times. We will soon get to the bottom of it. In fact, scheduled for May 9 at the earliest, the next launch the company should use the first Falcon 9 booster having flown nine times, most recently in March. In other words, for the very first time, a rocket will fly into space for the tenth time. In the aerospace industry, this is unheard of.

In reality, these first floors could even have a longer lifespan. This number of ten was indeed a symbolic milestone. In February, Hans Koenigsmann, senior advisor for construction and flight reliability at SpaceX, pointed out that if this flight is successful, engineers will try to make it fly a little more.

There does not seem to be an obvious limit to the reusability of the vehicle“, Elon Musk then confirmed on April 23, during a NASA press conference held after the launch of Crew-2. “We intend to fly this booster until we have a failure with the Starlink missions.“.

In the meantime, SpaceX continues to develop its Starlink constellation. Recently, the Federal Communications Commission authorized the company to operate 2,814 of its satellites in lower-than-expected orbits.

The Starlink service remains in beta testing in the United States and several other countries, such as the United Kingdom. This phase could be closed this summer. To date, more than half a million people have reportedly already deposited a deposit to pay for the company’s internet services.


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