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SpaceX Successfully Launches 60 Starlink Satellites, With Expert Landing

SpaceX nailed its launch of 60 Starlink satellites on Wednesday, with an expert landing of a veteran Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX Successfully Launches 60 Starlink Satellites, With Expert Landing
Image formatted to fit. Official SpaceX Photos / Wikimedia

SpaceX successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit on Wednesday, April 22, and nailed a perfect rocket landing at sea after the satellites were shot beyond the atmosphere, according to Space.com.

RELATED: ELON MUSK CLAIMS STARLINK SATELLITES WON'T IMPACT ASTRONOMY, BUT RESEARCH SAYS OTHERWISE

SpaceX's 60 Starlink satellites made it to space

The soot-smothered Falcon 9 rocket — whose first stage had three earlier flights under its belt before today — lifted off at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 3:30 PM EDT from Launch Pad 39A, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the rocket's white exterior awash in charred marks from its previous flights through the atmosphere.

With the ace mission accomplished, "[t]here are now 420 operational Starlink satellites," tweeted CEO and SpaceX Founder Elon Musk.

This successful launch marks the 84th Falcon 9 flight to date, which also means SpaceX's workhorse rocket is the most heavily-flown U.S. rocket in current use.

The rocket in today's flight joins the ranks of SpaceX's four-time fliers, with its first flight carrying the Crew Dragon capsule into space for the first time in 2019, in an uncrewed flight called Demo-1. The booster's following flight flung a trio of Canadian Earth-observing satellites and a fourth Starlink launch, earlier this year.

"We have a rocket," said SpaceX engineer Lauren Lyons in a webcast of today's launch. "This is the fourth landing for this booster."

SpaceX Falcon 9 Starlink Landing
The veteran SpaceX Falcon 9 booster makes its fourth landing after launching 60 Starlink Satellites into space. Source: Starlink Mission, SpaceX / YouTube

Starlink satellites sail into space

SpaceX's Starlink satellites had a great launch today, in contrast to the company's last flight. Last time, one of the nine first-stage Falcon 9 engines shut down too early. Engineers at SpaceX later discovered that a small quantity of isopropyl alcohol (used as a cleaning agent) got trapped in an area it wasn't able to flow through, which caused the engine to perform an early shutdown.

The Wednesday flight was the seventh operational mission for Starlink and brought the total number of SpaceX satellites launched for the forthcoming broadband network up to 422. Musk said the company intends to deorbit its two Starlink test satellites, called Tin Tin A and Tin Tin B, shortly — as part of a 2018 rideshare mission.

Musk added that at least 400 Starlink spacecraft need to be put into place before SpaceX can offer minimal internet coverage, and the company also needs roughly 800 satellites to support moderate internet coverage. Both possible later this year.

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