SpaceX launches 53 Starlink internet satellites and lands rocket in foggy flight

CAPE CANAVERAL (Fla.) -- SpaceX has launched its second rocket this week. This time, it carried a bunch of Starlink satellites into orbit. The booster landing was made at sea.
At 7:19 AM EST (1219 GMT), the Falcon 9 rocket, previously flown by the company, was launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. This marked the 25th launch of this year. This was also the ninth flight of this booster.

SpaceX Dragon propulsion engineer Youmei Zhang said that Falcon had landed during live commentary. This marks the 87th successful recovery of a Falcon 9's first stage."

SpaceX had to postpone its launch attempt due to severe weather conditions at Cape Point 24 hours earlier. The launch site was covered in dense fog that slowly lifted as the sun rose on Saturday morning. The rocket was barely visible from the launchpad but it was clear against the blue sky once it soared off the pad.

Photos of the launch of SpaceX's Starlink satellite megaconstellation by SpaceX

Image 1 of 5. (Image credit to SpaceX). Image 2 of 5. A used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 53 Starlink satellites launches through fog from a Cape Canaveral Space Force Station pad in Florida on November 13, 2021. (Image credit to SpaceX) Image 3: A Falcon 9 used SpaceX rocket carrying 53 Starlink satellites launches through fog from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida on November 13, 2021. (Image credit to SpaceX. Image 4 of 5. A stunning view of the Earth's fall below captured by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket during a Starlink Satellite launch on Nov. 13, 2021. (Image credit SpaceX) Image 5/5 This view (left) from SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster shows the landing drone ship. Please read the Instructions before you land in Atlantic Ocean on November 13, 2021. A view from the deck is shown at right. (Image credit: SpaceX)

This successful launch marked the first SpaceX Starlink liftoff from Florida using one of its Falcon 9 rockets, which are 229 feet tall (70 meters) and have been in operation for six months. In September, SpaceX launched a Starlink mission using its California-based launchpad.

The brief lull between Starlink launches was attributed by the company to the rollout of new satellites that are equipped with laser-based systems for communicating with each other in orbit and less with ground.

Nine minutes after liftoff, the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth. It touched down on SpaceX’s drone ship. This ship was originally scheduled to assist the launch of SpaceX’s Crew-3 astronaut mission. It lifted off Wednesday, Nov. 10. The first stage of the rocket returned to Earth.

Officials at SpaceX stated that Just Read the Instructions had to remain out at sea due to delays in the last crew launch. They were forced to brave waves up to 20 to 25 feet high. The drone ships can withstand these waves, but the teams decided to swap out the crew and the ships so that they could be ready for the next launch.

A massive constellation in orbit

SpaceX launches 53 Starlink satellites to orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, Nov. 13, 2021. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's Starlink megaconstellation was designed to offer high-speed internet coverage for users all over the globe, especially those living in rural and remote areas that don't have traditional internet access.

SpaceX has shipped more than 100,000 Starlink internet terminals to date. The service is currently approved for operation in at least 14 countries. There are also applications in many other countries. SpaceX launched its first complete set of satellites into a Polar orbit in September. This will allow the company to provide internet access for people living at higher latitudes.

SpaceX's Saturday launch was a success. It has lifted 1,844 Starlink satellites into space (including the initial test versions), exceeding the company's original quota. SpaceX has received official approval to launch thousands more.

Today's flight marks the second batch of Starlink internet satellites that the company recently upgraded. They now have intra-satellite laser communication.

Starlink review (hands on): Elon Musk's internet service Starlink is good.

Reused rocket

After its ninth launch and landing, the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage booster stands on top of the drone ship Just Read The Instructions. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Today's launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, also known as B1058, is a flight-proven booster which has flown eight times previously. It was launched in May 2020 and carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (NASA) and Doug Hurley to International Space Station. This mission is part of SpaceX's Demo-2 mission.

It launched a communications satellite to South Korea's military and more than 100 small satellites aboard the Transporter-1 mission. The CRS-21 cargo Dragon spacecraft was also launched. There were four additional Starlink satellite payloads.

SpaceX recycled the protective hardware, clamshell-like, that protects the payload. The two pieces are called a "payload fairing" or "nose cone", and they account for only 1% of the rocket's total cost, SpaceX officials claim. Each piece costs $3 million so it is worth reusing them to lower costs.

The fairings are equipped with navigation software and parachutes. They will then gently splash down into the Atlantic Ocean, where they will be retrieved from one of SpaceX's recovery ships to be refurbished for future flights.

This is the 128th flight overall of a Falcon 9 rocket booster and the 23rd Falcon 9 flight this year for SpaceX. This rocket is also the second to be launched in an extremely busy week for SpaceX. It saw the return of one crew from the International Space Station as well as the launch and launch of another.

Double header

Saturday's launch success was the cherry on top for a busy week at private spaceflight company.

The crew rescued the Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour, which was lost in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday (8 November). The capsule's crew consists of four astronauts. This marked the end SpaceX's Crew-2 mission to NASA, which was the company's second long duration flight. After a six-month space station stay, Shane Kimbrough (NASA), Megan McArthur for Europe and Akihiko Hishide (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), all returned safely to Earth.

Two days later, SpaceX launched its next astronaut crew: the Crew-3 mission's Raja Chari and Tom Marshburn (all NASA), along with Matthias Maurer, an astronaut from the European Space Agency. SpaceX and NASA prefer to send a new crew into space before returning the old crew home. However, Crew-3 was delayed by weather delays. Crew-3's Dragon, Endurance, reached the space station on Thusday (Nov. 11,).

SpaceX's 18th crewed launch into space was a major milestone. SpaceX has successfully launched three additional crews to NASA's space station since its mai 2020 crewed launch. One private flight, Inspiration4, was also launched by SpaceX.

In September, four private astronauts from Inspiration4 launched. However, they did not reach the space station. They orbited Earth for three days to raise funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Correction: According to a spokesperson, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that today's launch was SpaceX’s 23rd flight of 2018. It was the 25th launch by a SpaceX Falcon 9 in 2021.

Follow Amy Thompson @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @Spacedotcom