SpaceX launched 60 more Starlink Internet relay platforms in orbit on Sunday as the company strengthens network testing in Washington state, showing a series of nearly 300 satellites launched since June without spacecraft failures.
Nine Merlin 1D engines fired up and propelled the Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6 p.m. Starlink Broadband Network.
The petroleum-powered engines pulled up to produce 1.7 million pounds of stack that drove the Falcon 9 rocket northeast of Florida’s Space Coast. Two and a half minutes later, the first stage booster shut down its engines and loosened to start crashing down on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of course I still love you” in the Atlantic.
The second-stage single Merlin engine was ignited to continue the mission in orbit, and the Falcon 9’s two-piece nose casing threw nearly three and a half minutes into flight.
The 15-story first-stage booster nailed its landing on SpaceX’s drone ship about 400 miles (630 kilometers) northeast of Cape Canaveral. It was the sixth trip to space and back for this particular booster – designated the B1051 – after its debut on a non-pilot test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft in March 2019.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket has landed successfully on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of course I still love you” in the Atlantic.
This marks the 62nd recovery of a Falcon rocket booster and the sixth landing for this stage.
Continued coverage: https://t.co/B5TzWEpreQ pic.twitter.com/BzBcvQdqo5
Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) October 18, 2020
At the same time, Falcon 9’s top phase delivered the 60 Starlink Internet satellites in an initial orbit. The upper stage was later restored to maneuver the payloads in an almost circular orbit 172 miles (278 kilometers) above the Earth with a slope of 53 degrees to the equator.
The 60 flat-screen satellites separated from the rocket at 9.29 EDT (1329 GMT) to complete SpaceX’s 70th equally successful mission. A camera on the top step showed the 60 satellites – each with a mass of about a quarter of a ton – flying free from Falcon 9 over the Indian Ocean.
“Great way to start a Sunday,” said Andy Tran, a production supervisor at SpaceX who hosted the company’s launch webcast on Sunday.
SpaceX said its two recovery ships captured both halves of the mantle from Sunday’s launch when the mussel shells returned to the ground under parachutes. The net on one of the ships went as the cabinet settled into orbit, but SpaceX said its ocean-going recovery team was OK.
With the satellites launched Sunday, SpaceX has placed 835 Starlink broadband relays in orbit, including prototypes that will not be used for commercial service. It expands SpaceX’s leadership in operating the largest fleet of satellites in orbit.
The new Starlink spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, was expected to deploy solar panels and activate krypton-ion thrusters to begin raising their altitude to about 550 kilometers, where they will begin providing broadband service.
SpaceX’s 60 latest Starlink internet satellites are implemented from the Falcon 9 rocket.
SpaceX says ships in the Atlantic caught both halves of the rocket’s payload, but the net on one of the ships gave way. The recovery team is OK, SpaceX says. Https://t.co/B5TzWEpreQ pic.twitter.com/L1tTgVyDED
Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) October 18, 2020
SpaceX plans to operate a first block of about 1,500 Starlink satellites in orbits 341 miles above Earth. The company, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission to eventually deploy a fleet of up to 12,000 small Starlink broadband stations operating in Ku-band, Ka-band and V-band frequencies.
There are also preliminary plans for an even larger fleet of 30,000 additional Starlink satellites, but a network of that size has not been approved by the FCC.
SpaceX says the Starlink network – designed for low-latency Internet service – is “still in its early stages” and engineers continue to test the system to collect latency data and speed tests. In an application to the FCC dated October 13, SpaceX said it has begun beta testing the Starlink network in several U.S. states and is providing Internet connectivity to formerly unattended rural students.
On September 28, Washington’s military department announced that it was using the Starlink Internet service when paramedics and residents of Malden, Washington, recovered from a wildfire that destroyed much of the city.
Earlier this month, Washington officials said the Hoh Tribe began using the Starlink service. SpaceX said it recently installed Starlink ground terminals on an administrative building and about 20 private homes on the Hoh Tribe Reservation.
“We have a lot of distance,” said Melvinjohn Ashue, vice president of the Hoh Tribe. “For the last eight years, I have felt that we have paddled up the river with a spoon and hardly got anywhere to get internet for the reservation.
“It looked like SpaceX was just coming up and catapulting us into the 21st century,” Ashue said on October 7. “Our young people are able to teach online, participate in videos. Tele-health will no longer be a problem as well as tele-mental health. ”
In an FCC filing last week, SpaceX representatives wrote that the company had successfully launched and operated nearly 300 new Starlink spacecraft since June without a failure.
“SpaceX continues to invest in its rapid network deployment, including launching as many as 120 satellites a month and installing extensive terrestrial infrastructure across the country,” SpaceX told the FCC.
SpaceX appears to be on pace to launch more than 120 satellites in October.
The company added 60 satellites to the Starlink network with a Falcon 9 launch on October 6, launching another 60 spacecraft on Sunday. A Falcon 9 rocket is tentatively scheduled to take off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 12:36 EDT (1636 GMT) Wednesday with another bunch of Starlink satellites.
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