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SpaceX Launches 47 Starlink Satellites and Lands Rocket Making 11th Flight

SpaceX launched 47 satellites and landed the returning rocket on Thursday morning (March 3). A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket is carrying 47 Starlink internet satellites launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday at 9:35 a.m. EST (1435 GMT).About nine minutes later, the Falcon 9’s upper stage came back to Earth for a vertical landing on the drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the Florida coast. The successful landing was the 11th for the booster, tying a SpaceX rocket reuse record.

The booster previously launched the GPS III SV03 mission in June 2020, Turksat 5A in January 2021, Transporter 2 in June 2021, and seven other Starlink batches. Such extensive flight is a priority for SpaceX and its founder and CEO, Elon Musk, who has often said that complete and rapid reuse of space hardware is the critical breakthrough needed to help humanity colonize Mars and achieve other ambitious exploration goals.

Starlink is SpaceX satellite internet service, the first infrastructure launched in 2019. The network recently made headlines when CEO Elon Musk sent 50 Starlink terminals to Ukraine, where a Russian invasion has been interfering with internet access. Thursday’s launch was the sixth Starlink mission of the year already for SpaceX. All of the launches were successful, but the third mission, which lifted off on Feb. 3, ended up being waylaid by a solar storm.

That sun outburst spawned a geomagnetic storm here on Earth, which increased the density of our atmosphere enough to bring down up to 40 of the 49 Starlink satellites, which had not yet climbed to their operational altitude. There will be many more Starlink launches in the weeks and months to come. The company has already delivered more than 2,000 Starlink spacecraft to low Earth orbit, but it has permission to launch 12,000 satellites. It has applied to an international regulator for approval to loft up to 30,000 more.

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