Successfully launching a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is pretty much routine these days. Even when it is carrying 60 satellites it stays routine. Then, bringing the launcher safely back and landing it on its floating landing stage is successful more often than not.
SpaceX managed all those elements during the afternoon of April 22nd. But the flight was notable in as much as Elon Musk now has around 420 Starlink satellites in orbit. And Musk has previously said that he can start delivering a very limited service with 720 craft which will happen this year, or another half-dozen flights of 60 craft each.
The first commercial step will be to introduce an initial limited service for Canada and the northern States of the US later this year. A more complete service will need double that number, and Musk – in total – is looking to place 12,000 satellites into orbit in order to serve the planet and cope with anticipated demand.
Meanwhile, the launch records are being broken. This was the 84th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket since June 2010, and is the ‘most flown’ US-built rocket currently in operation and beating the previous record of 83 flights set by the United Launch Alliance (ULA).
But neither ULA or Europe’s Arianespace can get close to the hugely successful technical and financial model created by Musk and his team. This April 22nd flight used a rocket that had been flown multiple times before. The rocket’s payload fairings had flown before (on a flight for an Amos satellite launch).