SpaceX returns a Falcon 9 booster to Port of Long Beach for the first time

Earlier this week SpaceX launched their first operational Starlink mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The mission featured the first droneship landing on the west coast since early 2019, which means the stunning booster returns to California have also returned.

Veteran droneship brings back west coast booster returns

SpaceX launched another booster for the tenth time Monday, further proving the value of reusable rocket boosters. This mission also marked a return to droneship landings on the west coast, the last being Iridium NEXT-8 on the droneship Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).

Before SpaceX began a high volume of Starlink launches from their launch sites in Florida, the company operated one droneship for each coast. In 2019 JRTI left the west coast to be used alongside the then lone east coast droneship Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY). That left west coast launches with only the return to launch site option for reusability otherwise they would have to expend the rocket entirely.

This year SpaceX finished building their third droneship, A Shortfall of Gravitas (ASOG), which took over OCISLY’s spot on the east coast. Monday marked OCISLY’s first west coast mission and Thursday the booster returned to Port of Long Beach.

SpaceX Falcon 9 booster 1049 returns to Port of Long Beach. Credit: PeregrineDev / Space Explored

The booster launched Starlink Group 2-1, the first of many launches for this second group of Starlink satellites. These Starlink 1.5 satellites feature laser interconnects, a feature required for polar satellites to reach ground stations. Starlink satellites in polar orbits will have the ability to expand the reach of SpaceX’s internet service to more individuals who need faster internet speeds.

More polar launches of Starlink satellites are planned this year and the return of Starlink launches to the east coast should come soon as well. These will also bring more amazing west coast booster returns to the Port of Long Beach.

Featured Image: PeregrineDev / Space Explored

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