SpaceX launched its first batch of operational Starlink satellites in November.
Enlarge / SpaceX launched its first batch of operational Starlink satellites in November.

Trevor Mahlmann

SpaceX is readying a Falcon 9 rocket for the launch of 60 more Starlink satellites on Monday morning. If successful, the mission will bring the total number of satellites in its low-earth orbit Internet constellation to nearly 300.

But what is perhaps most remarkable about Monday’s launch is that the company has made rocket launches and landings almost, dare we say, mundane? Only a little more than four years have passed since SpaceX first landed a rocket along the Florida coast, and less than that since its first drone ship landing.

As of Monday, SpaceX will launch one of its Falcon 9 rockets for the fourth time (it has already flown other first stages four times), and then attempt its 50th first stage landing. On its Starlink-5 mission next month, SpaceX is expected to launch a Falcon 9 rocket for the fifth time. It is working to continue to reduce the amount of hours and work to refurbish a first stage between uses.

The company believes it can turn around first stage rockets—from landing to reuse—within about 30 days. (So far it has managed to re-fly a first stage about two months after landing). After each flight, a maintenance team still opens up the rocket to inspect its joints for leaks, ensure the reliability of the avionics, inspect welds, and more. The company’s engineers and technicians are still learning, so as they gain more data they should be able to increase their understanding of what needs inspection and what does not. From the information collected so far, they see no reason why each Falcon 9 core cannot fly 10 times before being sent to a rocket boneyard.

Weather conditions for Monday’s launch indicate a very good chance of favorable weather at the surface; however, there are some concerns about upper-level wind shear. The launch window opens at 10:05am ET (15:05 UTC), with a backup window available on Tuesday.

The company will provide a webcast of the Starlink-5 mission, likely beginning about 15 minutes before the launch window opens.

Starlink-4 launch.