SpaceX flies Falcon 9 booster for record 12th time

Early Saturday morning, SpaceX launched yet another set of Starlink satellites. For Starlink Group 4-12, 53 more Starlink satellites were carried into low Earth orbit by B1051 on its record-breaking 12th flight.

Starlink launches are just about almost a weekly occurrence at this point, but so many launches are necessary due to the satellites’ low orbital altitude.

This most recent launch carried 53 satellites into low Earth orbit, and they join over 2,000 others that are currently in orbit, providing internet access around the World.

B1051’s record 12th flight

Liftoff of B1051 for Starlink Group 4-12, by Jared Locke

The long-time goal of rapid reusability of Falcon 9 boosters has truly become a reality over the last two years. The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, the booster, lands either on a droneship or back at a landing pad after each mission. This enables the company to reuse them, at the cost of some payload capacity and potential refurbishment.

Earlier this month, SpaceX launched its third eleventh flight booster, B1060, but B1051 is the first to achieve 12 flights.

B1051 first flew SpaceX’s Demo-1 mission, an uncrewed test of the Crew Dragon capsule in early 2019. Since then, it has primarily flown Starlink missions, with the exception of a Radarsat Constellation Mission and SXM-7.

Early Saturday morning, B1051 flew its twelfth flight, landing successfully on SpaceX’s Just Read the Instructions droneship.

As SpaceX’s fleet of Falcon 9 boosters increases in flight count, it will be interesting to see when the older boosters begin to be retired due to wear-and-tear & excessive cost of repair, or if SpaceX continues to fly these heavily flown boosters on Starlink missions until in-flight failures help the company determine the limits and improve future boosters to exceed those limits. While before the company has flown its first booster for the tenth time CEO Elon Musk said, “We do intend to fly the Falcon 9 booster until we see some kind of a failure with the Starlink missions, obviously, just to have that be a life leader,” it is possible that “failure” could be something discovered in post flight inspections, so the company opts not to refly the booster.

Falcon 9 booster B1051 flight history

Flight numberMissionDate
1Demo-12 March 2019
2Radarsat Constellation Mission12 June 2019
3Starlink V1.0 L329 January 2020
4Starlink V1.0 L622 April 2020
5Starlink V1.0 L97 August 2020
6Starlink V1.0 L1318 October 2020
7SXM-713 December 2020
8Starlink V1.0 L1620 January 2021
9Starlink V1.0 L2114 March 2021
10Starlink V1.0 L279 May 2021
11Starlink Group 4-418 December 2021
12Starlink Group 4-1219 March 2022

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