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.
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.
There are now 420 operational Starlink satellites 🛰 😉— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 22, 2020
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."
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.
Successful deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed pic.twitter.com/h3e6QmKRue— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 22, 2020
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.