SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Takes Starlink Satellites To Orbit In Record-Breaking Style

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Elon Musk's SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 first-stage booster for what would be a record-breaking 19th mission. The launch occurred just after midnight on December 23, 2023, and successfully added 23 Starlink satellites to its network constellation.

Starlink mission 6-32 launched from the Space Launch Complex 40 launchpad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. SpaceX's first stage booster, B1058-19, has been an integral part in launching missions that include the Crew Demo-2, ANASIS-11, CRS-21, Transporter-1 and 3, and, of course, now 14 Starlink missions. The booster made its maiden flight in May 2020 carrying astronauts on the Demo-2 Crew Dragon mission. Its 19th flight did not come without its issues, however, as the liftoff was delayed over an hour following the rocket not being hoisted upright at the launch pad until around 7:35pm EST. The landing of the Falcon 9 first stage landed on the drone ship Just Read The Instructions about 8 1/2 minutes into the flight.

While the record-breaking launch was impressive, it may seem small compared to the space company’s total achievements. To date, SpaceX has had 292 total launches, 255 total landings, and 227 total re-flights. This flight also marks an astounding run in successful landings for SpaceX, with 181 successes prior to this launch.

Of course, Musk does not intend for the most recent record to be SpaceX’s last. Elon indicated in October of this year that SpaceX plans a record 144 launches next year for Starlink’s Direct to Cell service. In 2021, SpaceX had 31 missions launched, and then nearly doubled it the next year at 61. In order to meet the target of 144 launches, the space company will need to average one launch every 2.5 days, compared to 2023 that saw and average of one launch every 3.5 days.

The importance of being able to continue launching more Starlink satellites into low-Earth-orbit (LEO) was highlighted in a recent SpaceX X/Twitter post. SpaceX shared that the service was already being used by over 2.3 million people, and counting, in over 70 countries that span across all 7 continents. The latest country to be served up Starlink high-speed, low-latency internet from space was Paraguay.

SpaceX is already preparing for another launch of its Falcon 9 with the SARah-2 mission. It is currently scheduled for lift-off on December 24.