SpaceX’s 14th, got underway at 8:26 a.m. EDT when the Falcon 9’s nine first stage engines ignited with a burst of flame. About nine minutes after launch the booster’s first stage returned to Earth, touching down on one of SpaceX’s drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean in a smooth landing. The massive ship, called “Of Course I Still Love You,” is one of two in the company’s fleet of recovery vessels that catch falling boosters and return them to port.
“Great way to start off a Sunday,” said Andy Tran, a production supervisor at SpaceX who hosted the company’s launch webcast Sunday.
SpaceX said its two fairing recovery ships caught both halves of the fairing from Sunday’s launch as the clamshells came back to Earth under parachutes. The net on one of the vessels gave way as the fairing settled into orbit, but SpaceX said its ocean-going recovery team was OK.
Since Sunday, SpaceX has launched 835 Starlinks, including prototypes that won’t be used for commercial service. That extends SpaceX’s lead in operating the largest fleet of satellites in orbit.
Another set will launch Wednesday from the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.