SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket With 60 Satellites Lifts Off From Cape Canaveral

Pablo Tucker
May 24, 2019

The launch of the 60 "Starlink" satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral was scrubbed twice last week, once due to upper-level winds over the Cape and once to give the company a chance to "update satellite software and triple-check everything again".

About an hour after liftoff, SpaceX deployed the 60 Starlink satellites in a "very low Earth orbit" of 440 kilometers above the surface.

SpaceX and Boeing Co. have contracts with Nasa to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency's Commercial Crew program.

Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

SpaceX said it would probably take another day to learn whether all the satellites deployed were functioning properly.

It was the third attempt by SpaceX to launch the Falcon 9 rocket carrying its first 60 Starlink satellites.

In addition to the 550 km deployments, a 340 km shell will eventually comprise of 7,518 Starlinks while the 1,200 km orbital location will host 2,841 Starlinks.

Starlink will become operational once 800 satellites have been activated, which will require a dozen more launches.

To this end, SpaceX has opted not to launch the maximum number of Starlinks possible on the Falcon 9 in favor of a reduced payload mass to allow for a downrange recovery of the booster on the ASDS drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.

"Starlink mission will be heaviest @SpaceX payload ever at 18.5 tons".

SpaceX has authorization from the Federal Communications Commission to put for more than 11,000 satellites in low Earth orbit, but Musk says the Starlink service should be useful for internet service once there are 400 satellites in the constellation.

Those satellites are created to form the initial phase a planned constellation capable of beaming signals for high-speed internet service from space to paying customers around the globe.

A flat and compact design that is "significantly more scalable and capable than its first experimental iteration", noted SpaceX in the mission's press kit. It will take 12 launches before the company can provide coverage for a significant portion of the world's population, according to Musk.

"We think this is a key stepping stone on the way towards establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon", said Mr. Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who is also chief executive officer of automaker Tesla Inc.

The income from Starlink is meant to help fund advanced development of Starship, the super-heavy-lift launch system that Musk intends to use to send a million settlers to Mars in the decades ahead.

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