This SpaceX booster’s 11th flight is its last, it hasn’t returned

Tuesday evening, SpaceX sent one of its first-stage boosters into the sky for the 11th time. However, unlike the previous ten flights, this time he didn’t come back. The mission launched from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida, lighting up the night sky as the Falcon 9 rocket hurtled into space.

Thirty-five minutes after leaving the launch pad, the Falcon 9 second stage deployed a communications satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit for French satellite operator Eutelsat.

The Falcon 9 first stage is SpaceX’s oldest active rocket and has previously launched Telstar 18V and Iridium-8 missions, as well as nine Starlink internet satellite deployment missions.

SpaceX typically lands its first-stage Falcon 9 boosters soon after launch, but as this mission required more power to deploy the 5,443 ton satellite into orbit, there was not enough fuel to bring the booster back.

Repeated use of the same section has allowed SpaceX to offer launch services at more competitive prices because it does not need to build an entirely new rocket for each mission. But as Tuesday’s flight demonstrated, sometimes it’s not possible to get the rocket home.

It was the 52nd mission involving a Falcon 9 rocket in 2022, with 12 more scheduled before the end of the year. That means 2022 will be the busiest year yet for SpaceX in terms of Falcon 9 missions, breaking last year’s record of 31 launches.

Earlier this month, SpaceX also launched its more powerful Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time in three years on a mission for the US Space Force.

The company is also preparing for the maiden launch of its next-generation Super Heavy rocket, which will become the most powerful rocket ever launched when it lifts off. NASA plans to use the space section of the vehicle to land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface as part of the Artemis III mission, currently scheduled for 2025.

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