SpaceX continues to expand its satellite-internet constellation with its 186th overall launch.
SpaceX’s 100th launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station featured a set of 54 Starlink satellites, which launched to orbit on Thursday (Oct. 20) at 10:51 am EDT (1451 GMT). “With the completion of today’s launch, it marks SpaceX’s 48th successful Falcon 9 mission of 2022,” SpaceX Space Operations Engineer Siva Bharadvaj said during live commentary.
This was the 10th flight overall for this particular Falcon 9. It’s first stage touched down a little less than nine minutes later at sea on the SpaceX droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas. The satellites successfully deployed into low Earth orbit a little over 15 minutes after liftoff, according to SpaceX (opens in new tab).
Related: SpaceX rocket launch with Starlink fleet thrills stargazers along US East Coast
Starlink is a constellation of internet satellites built mainly to provide service for remote areas. The network is huge and ever-growing; with more than 3,100 estimated operational satellites (opens in new tab) in orbit, SpaceX has hopes to expand that by tenfold pending regulatory approval.
Starlink service has proven crucial to besieged Ukrainians during the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, and SpaceX recently pledged to keep funding the constellation’s Ukraine service after initially saying the Pentagon should help bear the cost.
SpaceX had a then-record 31 launches in 2021 and is close to reaching 50 already in 2022, with more than two months left in the calendar year. Many of this year’s launches have been devoted to Starlink, but others have sent NASA astronauts to the International Space Station and lofted US military satellites, among other tasks.