Elon Musk's rocket company is hustling to get more of its Starlink broadband satellites into orbit. After "Scrubtember" and then "Scrubtober" wreaked havoc with the SpaceX launch schedule, the company sent its 15th batch of orbiting routers aloft from Cape Canaveral in Florida Saturday after the 14th set launched a week ago.
A Falcon 9 rocket boosted the small satellites off the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 40 at 8:31 a.m. PT (11:31 a.m. ET in Florida) and on their way to low-Earth orbit where they'll join over 700 others. SpaceX noted on its webcast of the mission that this marks the 100th successful launch of one of its Falcon family of rockets since 2008.
The first stage booster then returned for a successful landing on the droneship known as Just Read The Instructions, which was waiting in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX plans to use another ship to pluck the nose cone out of the water.
The booster used Saturday was making its third flight -- not quite as experienced as the rocket flown on Sunday's Starlink mission, which launched and landed for the sixth time.
SpaceX and competitor United Launch Alliance saw several launch attempts scrubbed by weather and technical problems between late August and early October, leading to the rise of the hashtags #scrubtember and #scrubtober. Since then SpaceX has managed to get three Starlink missions off the ground.
A SpaceX mission to launch a new military GPS satellite and a ULA launch of a US spy satellite remain grounded while technical problems continue to be worked out.
SpaceX needs to get thousands of its internet-beaming birds into low-Earth orbit over the next few years to meet the requirements of its FCC authorization. So far, over 700 satellites have been launched and more than 60 of the oldest models have been or will soon be deorbited. All this means that SpaceX has a way to go to reach its ultimate ambition of creating a mega-constellation with tens of thousands of satellites.
The next Starlink mission is expected sometime in November.