SpaceX on Thursday launched a rocket containing the first 60 satellites of its "Starlink" constellation, which is meant to provide internet from space and could one day number 12,000 satellites. It kicked off when the company's towering Falcon 9 rocket blazed toward the sky from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 10:30 pm ET.
Tucked inside the rocket's nose cone were 60 satellites - the first batch of SpaceX's Starlink mega-constellation, which the company hopes will help provide affordable Internet coverage to the world.
The Falcon 9 was due to release its cargo of 60 satellites into orbit about an hour after Thursday's launch.
Starlink and Falcon 9 are looking good, and winds are better for tonight's launch. The broadband network being created requires over a thousand satellites to cover the globe, all positioned in low Earth orbit.
Starlink also has a lot of dollars-and-cents significance for SpaceX. " The first 1,584 Starlink satellites are expected to operate from a 550km orbit (GSO / GEO Stationary Orbit satellites sit at about 35,000km+ and are often more akin to the size of a double decker bus)". Musk said SpaceX will continue to expand the network after that to provide more complete coverage and to keep up with bandwidth demand.
SpaceX has publicly shared details about its Starlink constellation programs along with updated targets for its commercial services, satellite design and reason behind its thought process of having a constellation of 12000 satellites which is six times the number of satellites that are already in orbit.More news: Hurricanes: NOAA previews Atlantic storm season
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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and his team have been careful about playing their cards right.
With each Starlink satellite weighing in at 227 kg (500.5 lb), the total payload mass from just the Starlinks, not counting the adapter and deployment mechanisms, comes in at an impressive 13,620 kg (30,027 lb).
First 60 @SpaceX Starlink satellites loaded into Falcon fairing. The booster is programmed to fly itself back down to a drone ship called "Of Course I Still Love You", stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
If SpaceX confirms most or all of its satellites deployed successfully, and they are able to make contract with ground stations, then the launch will mark the largest step forward for any company attempting such a project.
The first stage booster for this mission is B1049.3, making its third orbital launch following the Telstar 18V mission from SLC-40 past year and the Iridium NEXT-8 launch from Vandenberg's SLC-4E in January 2019.
Starlink was launched in 2015, and envisages the development of global low-priced and high-performance internet.