SpaceX loses a Falcon 9 on landing in the first of two Starlink missions

A Falcon 9 loaded with Starlink satellites is preparing for launch.


After sending another batch of its Starlink Broadband Satellites in orbit Monday night from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, SpaceX appears to have missed the landing of its Falcon 9 first stage booster for the first time in a year.

On the livestream of the mission, a flash is seen right next to the drone ship the moment the booster should land, even though no rocket ever enters the frame.

SpaceX has not yet confirmed the fate of the Falcon 9, but it seems very likely that it crashed into the sea. In the process, it appears to have spared three seagulls hanging out on the landing plate and may never understand how close they came to being grilled.

Falcon 9 itself had a decent life and successfully completed six launches, but only five landings in its career.

The seemingly hard water landing comes almost exactly a year after the same thing happened at the end of a former Starlink mission on February 17, 2020. Every landing attempt in between has been successful (for Falcon 9, that is. Certainly does not count Testing starship in Texas).

After that, SpaceX has just over 24 hours before its next Starlink flight. The 20th batch of satellites is ready to explode from the adjacent Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday at. 21.55 PT (12.55 pm ET).

The company had planned to launch two batches of Starlinks from Florida within hours of each other earlier this month, but one of those missions was postponed. (This launch is now scheduled for Tuesday night.)

These launches and droneship landings that follow them become pretty routine for SpaceX, but Musk would like to see the pace of launches increase. Authorized by the FCC to For Starlink to work, at least 2,212 of its satellites must be operational by March next year.

The only sign that something went wrong? A bright glow and some eerie seagulls …


So far, over 1,000 of the small satellites have been sent into space, but it is not clear how many of these are currently in operation. Either way, it looks like if SpaceX can pull off at least two Starlink launches a month, it needs to be able to hit its target.

Only two Starlink missions have been flown so far in 2021, but the company can quickly get up to speed if it nails both missions this week.

Of course, these launches have been known for slipping.

Every time the next launch is imminent, we will integrate livestream here. It typically goes live about ten minutes before launch.

Follow CNET’s space calendar in 2021 to keep up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.

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