SpaceX has successfully launched another batch of 60 Starlink satellites, the orbital communications spacecraft that has produced three previous lying, and a second one this year alone. The launch took place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida at 9:06 a.m. this morning, using the famous Falcon 9 rocket, which has been on two previous missions.
SpaceX successfully recovered the Falcon 9 booster, separating it from the payload and the second stage, and then landed it back onto the drone lander in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster is also fairly reliable – overall, it has successfully completed 48 of 56 landing attempts, and the last failed Falcon 9 landing attempt was in December 2018.
The deployment of the Starlink satellite on the Falcon 9 will be completed in about 40 minutes, meaning SpaceX has launched 240 satellites for Starlink services. SpaceX, which became the world’s largest private satellite operator after the recent launch, is expanding its lead.
SpaceX’s chief operating officer and president, Gwynne Shotwell, has released a schedule of operations, and the ongoing satellite launch makes it possible to launch broadband Internet services for customers in the U.S. and Canada this year. The company aims to launch at least six more satellites by the end of the year and to begin global services after an estimated total of 24 launches.
Astronomers have criticized SpaceX’s constellation for its impact on night sky observations from Earth, but the company says its measures include a darkening experiment with the Earth-facing Starlink satellite. Today, the company says it is still evaluating the results of a test satellite that was last launched equipped with the coating and will provide updates after the results of the analysis.
Once enough satellites provide coverage, Starlink will provide high-speed Internet (with smooth video calls and streaming) in areas where such services were not available before, including remote areas as well as cruise ships and aircraft.