A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket boosted 48 more Starlink internet relay satellites into orbit Thursday, along with two BlackSky commercial Earth-imaging satellites. The flight marked the 27th Falcon 9 launch so far this year, a new record for the California-based rocket builder.
The Falcon 9's first stage booster, making its ninth flight, thundered to life at 6:12 p.m. EST, smoothly pushing the 229-foot-tall rocket away from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station atop 1.7 million pounds of thrust.
Eight minutes and 45 second later, the second stage and its 50-satellite cargo were safely in orbit. Just under an hour later, the two BlackSky satellites were released, followed by the 48 Starlinks about 25 minutes after that.
Meanwhile, the Falcon 9's well-traveled booster successfully landed on an off-shore droneship to chalk up SpaceX's 96th successful recovery, and its 73rd at sea.
SpaceX has now launched 1,892 Starlinks as it populates a globe-spanning commercial constellation of internet relay satellites designed to provide broadband service to users anywhere in the world. Going into Thursday's launch, 1,684 Starlinks were believed to be operational.
The two BlackSky imaging satellites joined eight others already in orbit, with two more scheduled for launch from New Zealand atop a Rocketlab booster later this month. BlackSky provides high-resolution imagery to commercial users as well as U.S. military and intelligence agencies.
Iowa farmer calls 911 after his wife is found impaled by a common farm tool
Congress scrambles to avert government shutdown before Friday night deadline
New misinformation campaigns target Latino voters