After a prolonged delay, American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company, SpaceX, launched its ninth operational flight of internet satellites ‘Starlink.’ The launch comes at the cost of three delays reaching back to late June due to weather and technical issues. The lift-off was at 1:12 a.m. ET (10:12 p.m. PT) on Friday, when the company’s Falcon 9 rocket ascended from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Falcon 9 successfully launched 57 Starlink internet satellites as well as two small Earth-imaging satellites into orbit under a rideshare agreement with Spaceflight, Inc. It was Falcon 9’s fifth spaceflight; meanwhile, Starlink made its eight liftoff this year, and the 10th overall (11 if you count the launch of two Starlink satellite prototypes in February 2018).
In order to facilitate reuse, the company equipped its payload fairing (also known as the rocket nose cones) with parachutes and software that guides them to the recovery zone. If its twin fairing catchers – Go Ms. Tree and Go Miss Chief – are unable to catch the fairing, which come back to Earth in two pieces, then boats can collect them out of the water and carry them back to port.
Starlink is a broadband constellation that will provide satellite internet access to the masses across the globe, particularly in remote regions. It will compete with the likes of Alphabet’s Loon (balloon-powered internet service) and Facebook’s almost-defunct Aquila project (high-flying drones for delivering internet).
SpaceX’s constellation of Starlink internet satellites aims to provide low-latency, high-speed broadband to customers who do not have access to internet connectivity. A beta set will be launched to provide connectivity in parts of the U.S. and Canada this year. The satellites on today’s flight are equipped with a special extendable solar visor to prevent reflections from their radio surfaces from obscuring the night sky from Earth.
The first stage of Falcon 9 returned to Earth and completed a safe landing on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship stationed in the Atlantic. SpaceX also noted it will attempt to catch the rocket’s fairing halves, as they did during the ANASIS-II launch on July 20.
SpaceX has something of an incredible summer this year. It launched and landing two NASA astronauts on the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station – a first for a private company. In addition, the SN5 Starship prototype completed a hop at the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The thermos-shaped prototype launched 500 feet into the air and nailed a successful landing. Chief Elon Musk was quick to quip “Mars is looking real,” on SpaceX’s latest achievement.
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