SpaceX successfully launches another Starlink batch but loses the first-stage during landing attempt (Updated)

by | Feb 16, 2021 | commercial launch services, Launches, Satellites, Seradata News, SpaceX

Lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 0359 GMT on 16 February, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried the second Starlink launch of the month into LEO.  The 60 Starlink satellites were deployed one hour five minutes into the launch into the correct orbit. However, it later transpired that one engine was shut down during the first stage initial burn with the other eight first stage engines making up for this loss of thrust.  While this did not affect the launch portion it did later affect the landing attempt of the reusable first stage which did not have enough thrust to attempt the landing portion of the flight.

As testament to SpaceX’s achievements in the field, the regularity of the once revolutionary landings of reusable Falcon 9 first-stages have made them verge on being mundane. However, on this flight as the result of the earlier shutdown, the first stage suffered an unexpected downrange landing attempt failure.

Landing approach footage provided by cameras on the first stage showed continued fire/plasma from the engine(s) after the re-entry burn engine shutdown was officially declared. This was followed at T+ eight minutes six seconds by a bright sea level flash being viewed from cameras located on the drone barge Of Course I Still Love You, implying an explosive impact of the stage in the Atlantic Ocean. The failure – the first after a series of 24 landing successes – inadvertently saved three seagulls from being cooked by the landing engine’s efflux as they were perched on the landing deck at the time.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifts-off from Cape Canaveral in the dark for the sixth and final time. Courtesy of SpaceX

This was the sixth launch and landing attempt of this first-stage B1059. It was previously used on the NRO-L108 mission in December 2020. The loss of this first-stage is expected to have a limited effect on the SpaceX future launch schedule. The company has been running an aggressive Starlink schedule in February, but relies on its store of reusable first-stages to enable its famous high launch rate.

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

April marks another Falcon 9 launch of 60 Starlink satellites

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9v1.2 Block 5 vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA at 1634 GMT on 7 April Read more

SpaceX carries out fourth Starlink mission of March and orbits 60 more satellites

At 0828 GMT on 24 March SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 vehicle carrying 60 STARLINK satellites from Cape Canaveral Read more

Third Starlink launch in March puts another 60 sats into orbit and sets new rocket re-use record

At 1001 GMT on 14 March a SpaceX Falcon 9 launched from Kennedy Space Centre, Florida carrying 60 STARLINK satellites. Read more

Another day…another Starlink launch: 60 satellites launched by SpaceX Falcon 9

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 launch vehicle carrying 60 STARLINK satellites at 0813 GMT on Thursday 13 Read more

Following a long series of delays SpaceX has managed to launch its lingering Starlink mission

On 4 March 2021 at 0824 GMT SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 vehicle from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, Read more

SpaceX completes another Starlink launch

At 0619 GMT on 4 February, SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites into LEO. The mission saw a Falcon 9 Read more

Initial Starlink launch of 2021 sees 60 more sats added and first eight-time booster landing

Lifting-off at 1302 GMT on 20 January, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral carrying 60 Starlink Read more

Manifest activity for SpaceX with new order for MethaneSAT and juggling rideshare payloads

On 13 January SpaceX was selected by MethaneSAT LLC (part of the Environmental Defense Fund) to launch its MethaneSAT mission Read more

Cookies & Privacy

Click here to read about use of cookies on the website