SpaceX sent a fresh batch of 60 Starlink broadband satellites into orbit tonight on a Falcon 9 rocket, executing a mission that aims to give the California-based company the world's biggest commercial satellite constellation.
What happened: A Falcon 9 rocket delivered 60 more Starlink satellites into a 180-mile altitude orbit. Provided all goes well, around 10 minutes after launch it'll return to Earth and land on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, stationed in the Atlantic ocean. The operational altitude of these Starlink satellites is 340 miles (550 km), and they'll make their way up there via thruster firings over the next one to four months, SpaceX representatives wrote in a mission description. Those challenges aren't coming just from Starlink; other companies plan to loft internet-satellite networks as well.
The space race took off in 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the world's first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit.
In addition to a booster recovery attempt, SpaceX has revealed that it will also attempt to recover one half of the fairing.
This batch of satellites will join more than 100 others that SpaceX deployed a year ago. Starlink will provide fast, reliable internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.
This launch will add 60 more satellites to the SpaceX Starlink constellation, joining 60 launched at the end of past year, and an earlier group of 60 launched in early 2019 for testing and experimentation purposes.
The constellation is potentially lucrative, seeing SpaceX surge above OneWeb and other companies looking to construct a low-latency Internet for earth from space. With this concealing strategy, astronomers may worry less about the satellite chain blocking their views of the solar system.
The combination of firsts and technical feats would lead anyone to believe that Monday night's launch is exceptional.
According to the company, Starlink commercial internet services could debut in parts of the USA and Canada after about half a dozen more launches, with global coverage after 24 launches.
SpaceX's Gwynne Shotwell has forecast coverage could begin as soon as this year but the company has not yet announced pricing for its new service. For instance, Patricia Cooper, SpaceX's vice president of satellite government affairs, is presenting a paper during the special AAS session on Wednesday.
"SpaceX has not yet eased the minds of astronomers concerned about the reflectivity of their Starlink satellites", she told AFP.
"It'll be some trial and error but we'll fix it".