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SpaceX Launches Record 11th Flight Carrying 52 Starlink Satellites

SpaceX Launches Record 11th Flight Carrying 52 Starlink Satellites
SpaceX Launches Record 11th Flight Carrying 52 Starlink Satellites

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket for a record 11th time on Dec. 18, sending a new stack of Starlink satellites into orbit from California in a predawn liftoff. 
The previously flown Falcon 9 rocket blasted off at 7:41 a.m. EST (1241 GMT, 04:41 a.m. local time) from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Station in California, carrying a stack of 52 Starlink satellites, reported. 
Approximately nine minutes after liftoff, the rocket's first stage returned to Earth and touched down on the deck of SpaceX's most prolific drone ship, "Of Course I Still Love You", marking the company's 98th successful landing. 
With its record 11th flight in the books, the Falcon 9 booster is SpaceX's most-flown rocket yet.
"We did just have a successful landing first stage landing," Youmei Zhou, a propulsion engineer for SpaceX, said during a live launch broadcast. "Our 98th overall landing of an orbital class rocket."
Saturday's early morning liftoff is one for the record books as it marks the 29th Falcon 9 mission for SpaceX so far in 2021, further solidifying a new company record for the most number of rocket launches in a year. (That record was previously set in 2020, with SpaceX launching 26 Falcon 9 rockets.)
If all goes as planned, the company could launch a grand total of 31 Falcon 9 missions this year, as there are two more launches on the calendar, which will both lift off from Florida. 
The first of those missions will launch a communications satellite called Turksat 5B less than 19 hours after the Starlink mission sailed into orbit, marking a company record. Liftoff is set for 10:58 p.m. EST (0358 GMT Sunday) from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. 
On Dec. 21, SpaceX is scheduled to launch another Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station for NASA from the agency's Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Saturday's flight continues SpaceX's efforts to expand and upgrade its burgeoning Starlink internet constellation. This is the fourth flight to carry its newly upgraded Starlink internet satellites, as the company recently equipped each of the flat-paneled satellites with the ability to communicate with each other via laser links. 
This will increase efficiency and reduce the constellation's reliance on ground stations on Earth, company officials have said.

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