SpaceX successfully launched its fifth batch of Starlink internet satellites into orbit on Monday.
Following a 24-hour delay (due to an issue with a valve component on the rocket’s second stage), Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station without a hitch.
But it wasn’t smooth sailing for the rocket’s first stage, which failed to touch down on SpaceX’s drone ship landing platform (known as “Of Course I Still Love You”) in the Atlantic Ocean.
“We clearly did not make the landing this time,” SpaceX Starlink engineer Lauren Lyons said of the missed milestone.
Had everything gone to plan, the docking would have marked 50 booster recoveries.
Falcon 9 did, however, make a “soft landing” in the water nearby; SpaceX remains optimistic the rocket is still intact.
“The first stage made its way back to Earth. Unfortunately, we did not land the first stage on our drone ship,” Jessie Anderson, a SpaceX manufacturing engineer, said during live commentary. “But it did make a soft landing on the water, right next to the drone ship, so it does look like it might be in one piece.”
Falcon 9’s first stage previously launched the CRS-17 mission in May, the CRS-18 mission in July, and the JCSAT-18/Kacific1 mission in December.
Fewer than 63 days elapsed between the third and fourth flights—a new turnaround record for SpaceX.
These satellites are part of the private spaceflight firm’s “Starlink” constellation, developed to bring affordable internet access to people worldwide.
The company aims to send as many as 12,000 capsules into orbit. This week’s mission brings the current number to 300.
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