SpaceX hit several major milestones with the launch of its next cluster of Starlink Internet satellites earlier this week from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 40 in Florida.
(TNS) — SpaceX hit several major milestones with a launch of its next cluster of Starlink Internet satellites on Monday morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 40.
The launch, the heaviest yet for SpaceX, lifted off at 9:56 a.m.
The company re-flew a fairing — the clam-like composite nose of the rocket that holds the satellites — for the first time, making it the first company to reach that point in rocket reusability.
SpaceX decided not to try to catch the two halves of the fairing this time, however. The company said it was concerned about “stress to the ships and high seas” that may impact the attempt.
SpaceX also landed a booster for the fourth time, the first time the company has reused a Falcon 9 rocket that many times.
“These boosters are designed to be used 10 times, let’s turn it around for a fifth, guys,” said SpaceX Starlink engineer Lauren Lyons as the booster landed on the company’s drone ship, “Of Course I Still Love You," applause erupting behind her.
The mission itself carried 60 of the company’s Starlink satellites into orbit, part of what could one day be a constellation of thousands of spacecraft in low-Earth orbit meant to provide worldwide Internet. The launch ended a quiet period for the Space Coast, coming three months after the region’s last ground-based liftoff.
Monday’s launch was SpaceX’s second for Starlink. The company sent the first 60 Starlink satellites into space in late May, bringing its current total to 117. SpaceX lost contact with three of its first batch of Starlink satellites, which will deorbit and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
The federal government has approved SpaceX for about 12,000 satellites for Starlink — with potential for tens of thousands more. SpaceX said it will need about 24 launches of 60 satellites each to reach global coverage.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has called Starlink “one of the hardest engineering projects” he’s ever seen.
Musk sent a tweet last month “through space via Starlink satellite,” showcasing the satellites’ capabilities.
“We still have a ways to go from tweets to 4K cat videos,” Lyons said Monday, “but we are on our way.”
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