On February 4th 2021 at 1:19 AM EST or 6:19 UTC on a chilly space coast Florida early morning with clear skies SpaceX launched their Starlink 18 mission with another set of 60 internet communication satellites from LC-40 at CCSFS Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
First stage booster B-1060.5 making its fifth flight into space was also capture by spacenews.lu photographer Scott Schilke making a lunar transit across the face of the 53% illuminated waning gibbous moon at 46 seconds into launch. Capturing a rocket lunar transit is a difficult feat to accomplish and execute.
The booster did make a successful drone ship landing on OCISLY “Of Course I Still Love You” in heavy seas and strong winds per Elon Musk on Twitter. A notable first is that this booster set a new SpaceX turn around record of just 27 days from the previous TurkSat-5A mission on January 7th 2021 from launch, landing, unloading, refurbishment to liftoff again.
Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief recovered both payload fairings and have already returned them to Port Canaveral on February 5th. Recovering both payload fairings can save SpaceX and estimated 5 million dollars. A new Falcon 9 rocket costs about 62 million dollars compared to a flight proven booster or re-flown at 50.3 million. A significant cost savings to the SpaceX customer of nearly 12 million dollars.
On spacex.com/mission the count is 111 Total Launches 74 Total Landings 53 Re-flown Rockets
Article and Photo Credit: Scott Schilke for spacenews.lu & space-news.es