SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket set to launch on record-breaking 18th mission today (Image Credit: Space.com)
SpaceX will break its own rocket-reuse record today (Nov. 3), if all goes according to plan.
A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch 23 of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites to orbit from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station today at 6:30 p.m. EDT (2230 GMT). It will be the unprecedented 18th mission for this Falcon 9’s first stage, according to a SpaceX mission description.
If SpaceX misses that first launch window, seven backup opportunities are available tonight, from 6:56 p.m. EDT until 10:22 p.m. EDT (2256 to 0222 GMT on Nov. 4). You can watch the action live via SpaceX’s account on X (formerly known as Twitter); coverage will begin about five minutes before liftoff.
The Falcon 9’s first stage will come back to Earth yet again this evening, if all goes according to plan. It will make a vertical landing about 8.5 minutes after launch on the drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the Florida coast.
The Falcon 9’s upper stage, meanwhile, will continue hauling the 23 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO). The spacecraft will be deployed there about 65.5 minutes after liftoff.
SpaceX and its billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk, have long prioritized the reusability of spaceflight hardware, seeing it as a key breakthrough that will enable Mars settlement and other ambitious exploration feats.
The company therefore keeps pushing the reuse envelope. The current Falcon 9 record of 17 flights, for example, was set on Sept. 19 and tied just four days later.
Many of these Falcon 9 missions have been dedicated to building out Starlink, SpaceX’s broadband megaconstellation in LEO, which currently consists of nearly 5,000 operational satellites. The Falcon 9 that’s flying this evening, for instance, already has 12 Starlink missions under its belt, according to the SpaceX mission description.