SpaceX has formally entered the satellite broadband race, transporting 60 Starlink satellites to orbit via a Falcon 9 rocket. The workhorse rocket attained liftoff at 7:30 p.m. PT Thursday from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Originally due for last week, the first delivery of the Starlink satellites was aborted twice; first time due to bad weather and during second time for “escalating mission success”. After those obstacles were cleared, Falcon 9 blow up through the dark Florida coast and headed to space with a customarily bright lift off.
The Falcon 9 booster landed successfully on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship installed in the Atlantic Ocean, after being used in two earlier SpaceX launches.
An accomplishment for sure, but for the company’s future global internet aim, the successful arrangement of 60 Starlink satellites to orbit is the far bigger story.
Starlink intends to provide satellite broadband to customers across the globe. One day, the service would form a net of satellites around the Earth, featuring some 12,000 space robots in a pattern that leaves no corner of the planet without internet. At almost 8:32 p.m. PT, the first 60 of these satellites were freed from the payload bay of the Falcon 9, 273 miles (440 kilometers) above Earth. Small boosters would see the satellites extend to an orbit of 342 miles (550 kilometers).
The satellites, which look like flat-panel TVs, drifted out of the payload bay at once. Each satellite weighs 500 pounds apiece and consist of a single solar array, a navigation system, tiny thrusters that permits SpaceX to find them in orbit and a few of high-throughput antennas, so they can snap signals around. The single solar array design is to diminish the likely points of failure, and in orbit, the array folds out like a musical instrument.
Six more launches are needed before Starlink would be fully functional; however, this first launch offers SpaceX with a opportunity to test the performance of their constellation.