On Monday night, SpaceX launched 60 more Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral. In doing so, they lost the Falcon 9 rocket’s reusable first stage booster during the landing attempt on the drone ship parked in the Atlantic Ocean.
Falcon 9 booster has been used eight times in the past, and it is the most used booster by SpaceX. According to Spaceflight’s reports, the first stage was complete in the first two and a half minutes after the liftoff and dropped away moments before the Falcon 9 ignited its single-engine second to stage to deliver the 60 flat-panel Starlink satellites into orbit.
“We weren’t able to land the first stage, which is a bummer, but our second stage did have two successful burns from the MVAC engine,” said Jessie Anderson, a SpaceX engineer who hosted the company’s launch webcast Monday night.
The launch was supposed to happen on Sunday, but the weather conditions delayed it by a day. The loss of a booster will invite investigation at SpaceX. The booster extended grid fins and arced downrange on a ballistic trajectory, then oriented for the plunge back into the atmosphere.
The first stage was programmed to fire three of its nine Merlin engines for an entry burn. Then, reignite a single-engine for a final braking maneuver just before attempting a propulsive landing on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” positioned roughly 400 miles (630 kilometers) downrange from Cape Canaveral.