SpaceX continues rapid-fire launch cadence

SpaceX continues rapid-fire launch cadence

Keeping up a rapid-fire launch pace, SpaceX fired off its third Falcon 9 of the year Tuesday, boosting another 49 Starlink internet satellites into orbit as the company continues building out a globe-spanning network of commercial broadband relay stations.

The Falcon 9, using a first stage making its 10th flight, thundered to life and climbed away from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:02 p.m. ET, arcing over a full moon as it headed out on a southeasterly trajectory tilted 53 degrees to the equator.

A time exposure captures the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket over a full moon Tuesday as it climbed away from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. It was SpaceX's 121st Florida launch, but only the sixth taking off on a southeasterly trajectory. / Credit: William Harwood/CBS News

A time exposure captures the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket over a full moon Tuesday as it climbed away from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. It was SpaceX’s 121st Florida launch, but only the sixth taking off on a southeasterly trajectory. / Credit: William Harwood/CBS News

After boosting the rocket out of the lower atmosphere, the first stage fell away and flew itself back to landing on an off-shore droneship. It was SpaceX’s 103rd successful recovery and its 79th at sea.

The second stage slipped into its planned orbit a few seconds later and all 49 Starlinks were released to fly on their own a few minutes after that.

The exhaust plume of the Falcon 9's second stage engine expands in the low-pressure environment of the extreme upper atmosphere, creating a ghostly cloud. The rocket's first stage can be seen at left, along with the two halves of the rocket's discarded nose cone fairing. / Credit: SpaceX webcast

The exhaust plume of the Falcon 9’s second stage engine expands in the low-pressure environment of the extreme upper atmosphere, creating a ghostly cloud. The rocket’s first stage can be seen at left, along with the two halves of the rocket’s discarded nose cone fairing. / Credit: SpaceX webcast

The launching was the third so far this year for SpaceX, following another Starlink flight January 6 and a “rideshare” mission January 13 that put 105 small satellites in orbit.

Going into Tuesday’s flight, SpaceX had launched 1,993 Starlinks, of which 1,741 were thought to be functional. The company has regulatory approval to launch more than 12,000 Starlinks to provide space-based commercial internet access to customers anywhere in the world.

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