SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, has tied its own record for most rocket launches in one year.
Musk’s company used a Falcon 9 rocket to send a Qatari communications satellite into space on Thursday afternoon, marking the SpaceX’s 63rd launch since 2010. The satellite, Es’hail-2, left NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida around 3:45 p.m. ET, and the booster landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean shortly after.
SpaceX has launched rockets for more than a dozen international clients. The new satellite will provide telecommunication services to the Middle East and North Africa. Es’hail-1, Qatar’s earlier satellite, was deployed in August 2013 in partnership with Eutelsat, a French telecommunications operator.
The Falcon 9 is SpaceX’s reusable workhorse rocket; this was the company’s 18th mission in 2018, tying its total from last year.
Four more launches using a Falcon 9 rocket are scheduled in the last six weeks of the year. SpaceX has scheduled a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station in early December, and the US Air Force’s first third-generation GPS navigation satellite is set to launch after that.
SpaceX has come a long way since it started in 2002. After a near-bankruptcy and a string of failures, Musk’s company relied on funding from NASA to build Falcon 9. The rocket experienced some serious problems along the way, but the company’s number of successful launches has almost made them boring over the past few years.
Musk’s company is now gearing up to send humans to space on its Crew Dragon capsule, perhaps bringing NASA astronauts to the ISS in 2019.
Thursday’s launch was held just a few hours after the Federal Communications Commission said it would allow Musk to move forward with his plan to launch a network of satellites that would blanket the world in high-speed internet.
You can watch the video of the launch here: