SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center at first light Friday with 53 Starlink internet satellites, completing an all-nighter of space operations just five hours after returning four astronauts to a splashdown off the west coast of Florida.
Rocket Lab used a helicopter to capture a spent Electron first stage booster and its parachute after launching satellites from New Zealand Monday, a significant step forward for the company's rocket recovery and reuse program. The helicopter dropped the rocket a few seconds later.
SpaceX continued throttling up its launch rate with another Starlink mission from Cape Canaveral Friday, completing a rapid recycle with a Falcon 9 first stage booster flying for the second time in 21 days.
With a mission Friday to deploy more Starlink internet satellites, SpaceX will try to shave nearly a week off the company's previous record for the shortest time between two launches of the same Falcon 9 booster. The first stage on Friday's mission is scheduled to fly just 21 days after its previous launch and landing.