SpaceX Just Launched Starlink Satellites on a Veteran Falcon 9 Rocket

SpaceX is closer than ever to offering global internet.
Brad Bergan

SpaceX just launched another fleet of Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The full set of 60 Starlink internet satellites were lifted atop a veteran Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station's Complex 40 in Florida, at 12:34 PM EDT.

The launch streamed live on SpaceX's YouTube channel (featured below).

SpaceX's stage-1 Falcon 9 rocket landed successfully on drone ship

Stage 1's entry burn successfully activated on descent while the second stage's rocket continued to accelerate the Starlink satellites for entry into low-Earth orbit. The Falcon 9 first stage landed perfectly — marking the 79th successful recovery, and the seventh recovery of this specific booster.

Stage 2 has shut off its engines and successfully entered low-Earth orbit. It will now coast for 45 minutes before readying to deploy the Starlink satellites.

Stage-2 rocket carrying Starlink satellites into orbit

The fairing (nose cone) was also deployed, to return expensive software back to the Earth. A recovery vessel will pick it up from the ocean. As of writing, the second stage's trajectory is "looking nominal," according to SpaceX's live stream.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 just cut off its main engines during ascent

SpaceX's Falcon 9 cut off its first stage rocket, which is now on its way back to Earth to land on SpaceX's drone ship "I Still Love You," with the upper, second stage carrying on to deliver Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO).

SpaceX's veteran Falcon 9 rocket launched Demo-2 last year

Called the Starlink 23 mission, Wednesday's launch is the 10th so far in 2021, and the 24th specifically purposed for the growing internet service. SpaceX aims to offer high-speed internet globally, expanding coverage with a megaconstellation of Starlink satellites. Of special use to rural or remote areas, Starlink's internet service could transform the way the world connects.

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A small deposit payment is required to register for the service on Starlink's official website. But readers are encouraged to manage expectations, since the service will likely not go live for months, or longer.

This launch is the 113th flight for SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster model. The first stage of this specific rocket — called B1058 — has already flown six times, the first of which involved the launch of two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station during May 2020's Demo-2 mission.

After launching astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade, the Falcon 9 rocket lifted a communications satellite for South Korea's military, a Dragon cargo ship, and a collection of satellites for the Transporter-1 mission. And assuming nothing goes sour, the Falcon 9 first-stage rocket will touch down on one of SpaceX's duo of drone ships, called "Of Course I Still Love You." If it doesn't botch the landing, this will be the 79th successful recovery of a first-stage booster since the first successful landing, in December of 2015.

Falcon 9's payload fairing to be recovered from the ocean

As of writing, the weather looks great — with a 90% chance of friendly conditions forecast by the 45th Weather Squadron. But if cumulus clouds interfere, SpaceX could still shoot for a backup launch window, on Thursday.

Notably, the $6 million assemblage of Falcon 9's payload fairing (or nose cone) will be retrieved after returning to the Earth in two parts. The nose cone contains costly computer software capable of navigating the instrumentation into a favorable recovery zone, in which it activates parachutes to achieve a soft splashdown in the ocean.

This is developing news about SpaceX's launch of another set of Starlink satellites, so be sure to check in with us for more updates.

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