SpaceX launched the latest installment of the Starlink satellite network as planned at 9:06 a.m. EST on Wednesday into a sunny but cool Florida winter sky.
The Falcon 9 rocket carried 60 more Starlink spacecraft into orbit, the fourth time for such a feat. The mission lifted off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, about 8 miles northeast of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
“We just had a nominal liftoff of our Falcon 9 vehicle carrying our Starlink payload on its way to its targeted orbit,” SpaceX engineer Lauren Lyons said in a live broadcast.
The company had experienced a few delays in recent weeks because of weather concerns, and strong high-altitude winds forced a postponement of the launch on Monday morning. Rough seas in the recovery zone caused another schedule slip Tuesday, SpaceX said.
Earlier in January, SpaceX delayed a test launch of its Crew Dragon capsule because of high seas in the spacecraft’s landing zone.
If all continues on track for the constellation, 100 or more such Starlink launches could occur in the future. SpaceX intends ultimately to launch thousands of satellites to beam broadband around the globe.
SpaceX has 182 of its large dinner table-size satellites in orbit, each weighing over 500 pounds. When they reach space, they extend a large solar panel for power. The space firm previously launched 60 Starlink satellites at a time in May, November and on Jan. 6, with two test satellites launched before that.
The company has faced concerns from astronomers and other stargazers who have seen satellites shining brightly in the night sky. Astronomy groups have posted images showing how the satellites interrupted photos or space object observations.
The launch earlier in January carried one spacecraft, a so-called “Dark Sat,” that had an experimental coating to make it less reflective and less visible to stargazers.
The results of that experiment haven’t been announced. SpaceX’s Starlink mission descriptions say satellites take months to reach their proper orbit, so judging the effectiveness of the experiment will take a while. In the meantime, SpaceX continues launching Starlink.
Wednesday’s payload rode atop a first-stage booster that previously carried a Crew Dragon capsule on its first demonstration mission in March 2019 and a satellite mission in June 2019.
SpaceX recovered the first stage again by landing it on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean. The company was also set to recover the rocket nose cone’s halves in the ocean about 45 minutes after launch.
Starlink satellites orbit at a height of about 340 miles above the Earth. By comparison, the Kármán line that defines space is 62 miles high, and the International Space Station is more than 250 miles high.
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Washington DC (Sputnik) Jan 29, 2020
Starlink is a vast satellite constellation conceived by American company SpaceX to provide Internet access to remote parts of the globe. It potentially comprises up to 42,000 small satellites.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is preparing to launch 60 Starlink “internet satellites” into space on 29 January amid critics’ fury over the resulting “wall of space junk” flooding Earth’s orbit.
The Starlink satellites are tightly packed into a 229-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket, which is currently on a launchpad at F … read more