SpaceX launched its 60th mission of the year on Wednesday, and it’s not done yet.
The California-based commercial spaceflight company launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 54 Starlink internet satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral in Florida at 4:34 a.m. ET on Wednesday, December 28.
As usual, SpaceX livestreamed the early stages of the mission. Here’s the Falcon 9 rocket lighting up Florida’s night sky as it leaves the launchpad:
Several minutes later, the rocket jettisoned the first-stage booster, which made its way back to Earth.
About eight minutes after launch, the first-stage booster made a perfect landing on a SpaceX droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The booster will now be brought back to land, refurbished, and sent on another mission.
The latest mission marked the 11th launch and landing for this particular Falcon 9 first-stage booster, which previously launched GPS III Space Vehicle 04, GPS III Space Vehicle 05, Inspiration4, Ax-1, Nilesat 301, and now six Starlink missions.
SpaceX said that Wednesday’s launch was the first under a new license that allows the company to deploy its Starlink internet satellites to new orbits, which will add more capacity to the network. This will make it easier for SpaceX to add more Starlink customers and offer faster broadband service, especially in places that are currently over-subscribed, SpaceX said.
SpaceX still has one more mission scheduled for 2022, which will bring its total number of missions for the year to a record 61, almost double what it achieved in 2021.
This year’s missions used SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, except for one involving its more powerful Falcon Heavy vehicle in a flight that deployed two classified satellites for the U.S. Space Force in November.
Next year will see a huge number of launches, too, while SpaceX will also be focusing on the first test of its next-generation Super Heavy rocket and Starship spacecraft, designed for missions to the moon and beyond.