Earth Day reaches an out of this world milestone

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LOW EARTH ORBIT (WLNS) – In the ultimate act of reuse, the SpaceX Falcon 9 mission today completed this booster’s fourth flight.

Today’s flight also marked a significant milestone for the Falcon 9 rocket which now has 84 flights under its belt — more than any other currently operational U.S. rocket.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida today at 3:30 p.m.

This is the seventh launch of Starlink satellites, deploying 60 satellites to orbit, bringing the total number of satellites launched for the nascent broadband network up to 422.

Today’s flight also marks the third time SpaceX has reflown recycled payload fairing pieces. Once a rocket reaches a certain point in its ascent, fairings fall back to Earth where they are discarded in the ocean, never to be used again. SpaceX has now successfully recovered more than 50 first-stage boosters, they’re the next step in the company’s quest to reuse more of the rocket.

SpaceX could save as much as $6 million per flight by reusing fairings, Musk has said. So, the company has outfitted its fairings with a navigation system to steer each half back to Earth and a parachute to help it gently land in either the ocean or in the outstretched nets of the company’s recovery ships, according to an article by Space.com.

SpaceX did not attempt fairing net snags today, because the company’s boat and fairing software are being upgraded at the moment, company representatives said during today’s launch webcast.

Following today’s successful liftoff, the veteran Falcon 9 booster, landed on a floating platform at sea, marking the company’s 51st successful recovery. The next flight on SpaceX’s docket is another batch of Starlink satellites in May, followed by the company’s first crewed mission, Demo-2.

On May 27, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will climb aboard their Crew Dragon spacecraft and launch to the International Space Station for an extended stay. This flight will mark the first time humans have launched to orbit from U.S. soil since the end of NASA’s space shuttle program in 2011.

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