SpaceX launches 60 mini satellites for cheaper global Internet

Yolanda Curtis
November 12, 2019

"Prior to orbit raise, SpaceX engineers will conduct data reviews to ensure all Starlink satellites are operating as intended", SpaceX said before launch.

Stacked flat inside the top of the rocket, the newest satellites were going to manoeuvr even higher following liftoff, using krypton-powered thrusters.

Central to SpaceX's mission of making rocket launches as cheap as possible is recovering and recycling as many components as possible, and it today took another significant step toward this aim.

The Falcon 9 first-stage booster that sent 60 Starlink satellites into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida was previously used to launch commercial satellites in July and October of 2018.

These 60 satellites follow 60 launched in May, but whereas those, and two launched a year ago, were for testing purposes, this new batch is the first in a series of launches that will ready the constellation for providing internet service to consumers. The satellites separated just over one hour later into a 280-kilometer low Earth orbit.

In another first, the nose cone protecting the Starlink satellites and their deployer will make its second flight after an April launch atop a Falcon Heavy rocket.

In addition to the thousands of satellites that SpaceX plans to launch, thousands more are being planned for similar broadband mega-constellations being built by OneWeb, Telesat, Amazon's Project Kuiper and other ventures.

Since the most recent launch of Starlink satellites in May, SpaceX has increased spectrum capacity for the end-user through upgrades in design that maximise the use of both Ka and Ku bands. The total number of satellites that might ultimately end up in orbit is not yet known. While SpaceX's early constellation deployment is focused on deploying satellites at 550 kilometers, the company has FCC approval for around 7,500 satellites near 350 kilometers.

What's more, SpaceX recovered the booster via controlled landing on its seafaring drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" in the Atlantic Ocean, which means it's possible the booster could be turned around and re-used still another time - they're created to support up to 10 flights in total.

Launch Window: 9:51 10:02 a.m.

SpaceX is among several companies interested in providing broadband internet coverage worldwide, especially in areas where it costs too much or is unreliable. Musk has also tweeted through the satellites. One of SpaceX's launch commentators gave a nod to Veterans Day as the rocket rose: "With gratitude to our veterans, today and always, go U.S.!"

SpaceX could start offering limited Starlink service as early as next year.

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