SpaceX successfully launched and landed the same Falcon 9 booster dozens of times for the second time in a matter of weeks.
The Falcon 9 Booster B1051 became the first to cross the 12-flight mark on March 18, launching a batch of Starlink satellites more than three years after their debut. Now, less than two years after its first launch on June 30, 2020, the Falcon 9 Booster B1060 has successfully completed its 12th launch and landing.
The Falcon 9 B1060 took off at approximately 1:51 PM EDT (17:51 UTC) on Thursday, April 23 and performed just as expected; A consumable upper stage, aerodynamic payload, and another set of 53 Starlink V1.5 satellites are hoisted most of the way out of Earth’s atmosphere before the nine Merlin 1D engines are shut down and separated. While the upper stage ignited its Merlin Vacuum solo engine and lost its exterior appearance, the B1060 peaked at 116 kilometers (~72 miles) after reaching a top speed of 2.2 kilometers per second (Mach 6.4 or ~5,000 mph). Eventually, the Falcon 9’s first stage began to fall back to the ground and ignited three of its Merlin 1D engines to design a re-entry burn to slow the car and partly shield it with its own exhaust to reduce heating.
The Falcon 9 B1060 capped its twelfth launch with a symbolic touchdown burn and landed aboard the drone ship Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) – positioned 629 kilometers (390 miles) away – about eight minutes after take-off. The only aspect of the launch that was a little off was the last second or so of the B1060’s landing. Its Merlin 1D single landing engine appears to be burning for too long, causing the booster to fall a few feet onto the JRTI roof. The Falcon’s boosters are designed to survive much tougher descents, however, the added pressure should be quite marginal.
With its twelfth mission complete, the B1060 has launched an average of once every 55 days over the past 22 months. The B1060 also set SpaceX’s current Falcon 9 booster turn record of 27 days between launches – halving the space shuttle’s most complex 54-day record. In all, of a total of 21 Falcon 9 Block 5 stages that have been proven to fly, SpaceX’s four most productive Block 5 boosters have completed 45 orbital-class launches in the past three and a half years – more than half of all Falcon 9 launches have been made in same period.
“Twitter practitioner. Beer evangelist. Freelance gamer. Introvert. Bacon aficionado. Webaholic.”