Another record breaking SpaceX Starlink launch has been successfully completed, with 56 additional smallsats joining the already 600 Starlinks already on-orbit. The Falcon 9 rocket used to transport the Starlink and SkySat payloads to space has been auspiciously used five times previously by the firm for other missions.
SpaceX customer Planet also joined in with this launch, with three, Maxar-built, SkySat 19, 20 and 21 smallsats aboard as passengers — this was Planet’s second payload adventure accessing the SpaceX rideshare program.
This trio of smallsats will join Planet’s 18 SkySats already on-orbit. When commissioned, Planet will then possess the largest, high resolution satellite fleet on-orbit to complete their constellation of imaging spacecraft. Planet also operates 100+ Dove smallsats that are on-orbit and they offer wide-angle views that are of a lower resolution.
SpaceX employed a booster (ID’s as B1049 by the company) with the Falcon 9 launch vehicle that had been used five times previously and, as this mission’s first stage was successfully landed aboard the company’s “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, another reuse of this unit on a forthcoming launch is highly likely. This sixth landing is another record breaker for the company.
This was also the first time that SpaceX employed a pair of previously flown fairings. One of the fairings was captured by the “GO Ms. Tree” droneship, while the second fairing managed a soft water landing with recovery by the “GO Ms. Chief” droneship.
For SpaceX, this was their 99th successful launch using all iterations of the Falcon 9 rocket.
Launch imagery screenshot captures are courtesy of SpaceX’s live launch video coverage.