SpaceX launches another batch of Starlink 'V2 Mini' satellites, lands rocket at sea

Watch footage of the Falcon 9 first stage that lifted the satellites into the sky coming back to Earth for a dramatic landing at sea.
Chris Young
SpaceX's Falcon 9 just after launch.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 just after launch.

SpaceX / Twitter 

SpaceX lifted another batch of its Starlink "V2 Mini" internet satellites as part of a test campaign ahead of the launch of its next-generation Starlink 2.0 satellites.

One of SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rockets launched 22 of the new satellites early on Sunday, June 4, against the backdrop of a stunning blue sky. The Starlink mission lifted off at 8:20 a.m. EDT (1220 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Just eight minutes later, the Falcon 9's first stage booster performed an automated landing in the Atlantic Ocean on SpaceX's drone ship Just Read the Instructions.

Starlink V2 Minis pave the way for SpaceX's next-gen satellites

On the same day that SpaceX lifted the new batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit, the company had also planned to launch an uncrewed Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. However, bad weather conditions forced SpaceX to postpone that launch to today, June 5.

In an update on Twitter, SpaceX stated that the ISS supply mission has a "new T-0 of 11:47 a.m. ET on Monday, June 5" and that "teams will continue to monitor weather, which is 60% favorable for liftoff."

The Starlink V2 Mini launch, meanwhile, occurred on the 13-year anniversary of SpaceX's first-ever Falcon 9 launch in 2010.

SpaceX's V2 Mini satellites are a testbed for technology that will eventually be used on the company's Starlink 2.0 satellites, which will predominantly be launched aboard its massive Starship launch system. The new satellites provide greater broadband capacity than the standard model, according to SpaceX. They also feature Hall thruster electric propulsion systems, providing double the thrust.

SpaceX launches another batch of Starlink 'V2 Mini' satellites, lands rocket at sea
Falcon 9 shortly after launch.

In a tweet shortly after the first Starlink V2 Mini launch in February, SpaceX stated that "V2 minis include key technologies — such as more powerful phased array antennas and the use of E-band for backhaul — which will allow Starlink to provide ~4x more capacity per satellite than earlier iterations."

SpaceX's growing Starlink mega-constellation

SpaceX has now launched roughly 4,400 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. According to Harvard astronomer and astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell's website, SpaceX currently has more than 4,000 Starlink satellites active in orbit.

SpaceX has Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approval to launch a further 12,000 Starlink satellites to orbit, and it has applied for permission to lift another 30,000 on top of that. Starlink satellites account for the majority of satellites in orbit today. Their high number has prompted some concern from scientists and organizations, including NASA, which has stated that the satellite mega-constellation could impede its ability to detect a potentially hazardous asteroid.

Yesterday's mission marked SpaceX's 37th launch of the year so far and its 237th successful mission overall. The company continues to prepare for the second launch of its massive Starship launch system, though it is currently the focus of a lawsuit levied against the FAA following the first Starship launch.

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