SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket cuts Space Shuttle turnaround record in half

SpaceX has successfully kicked off the first of two Starlink launches scheduled in the same 28-hour period and reused a Falcon 9 booster faster than ever before, cutting a 35-year-old NASA Space Shuttle record in half.

As previously discussed on Teslarati, SpaceX unexpectedly revealed that Falcon 9 B1060 was assigned to launch Starlink-18 just hours prior, setting up the orbital-class rocket booster for a potentially record-breaking reuse. After a few minor delays unfortunately pushed Starlink-17 to Friday and ended an opportunity for two Starlink launches in four hours, B1060 lifted off right on schedule at 1:19 am EST, February 4th, burning for two and half minutes to carry Falcon 9’s expendable upper stage beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Starlink-18 (left) now complete, Starlink-17 (right) is scheduled to launch at 5:14 am EST, February 5th. (SpaceX)
Falcon 9 B1060 stands tall on drone ship OCISLY as Starlink-18’s expendable upper stage wraps up the first of two burns. (SpaceX)

Break that record Falcon 9 B1060 most certainly did, launching twice in just 27 days and leapfrogging the previous record of 37 days by more than a 25%. That makes B1060 the first orbital-class rocket to (in spirit) launch twice in one month, a feat that even NASA’s Space Shuttle was never able to get less than three weeks away from.

In 1985, Space Shuttle Atlantis set a 54-day turnaround record that lasted for more than three decades.

In fact, SpaceX quite literally halved NASA’s 54-day Space Shuttle turnaround record with booster B1060’s 27-day reuse. One year ago, SpaceX’s turnaround record stood at 62 days. Six months ago, Falcon 9 beat Space Shuttle to become the world’s most quickly reusable rocket after launching twice in 51 days.

Put a different way, SpaceX has been aggressively cutting Falcon booster turnaround times for the past six or so months, nearly halving its own world-record in that brief period. If SpaceX continues to halve Falcon 9 turnaround records every six months, the first Falcon booster turnaround measured in single-digit days could (and, at this rate, probably will) happen before the end of the year.

60 new Starlink satellites were successfully deployed approximately an hour after liftoff. (SpaceX)

Finally, of course, Falcon 9’s primary Starlink-18 mission was a perfect success, delivering another 60 Starlink v1.0 satellites to orbit and pushing the vast constellation a step closer to the goal of serving fast, affordable internet to anyone, anywhere. Stay tuned for Starlink-17, currently scheduled to launch as few as 28 hours later.

Original Publication by Eric Ralph at Teslarati.

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