SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink Internet repeater platforms on Sunday as the company tests the network in Washington state and advertises a series of nearly 300 satellites launched since June without the spacecraft’s failure.
Nine Merlin 1D engines fired and launched a Falcon 9 rocket from 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:25:57 a.m. EDT (1225: 57 GMT) on Sunday, marking Falcon 9’s 14th deployment mission. satellites for SpaceX Starlink Broadband.
The kerosene-powered engines shut down, producing a thrust of 1.7 million pounds, diverting the Falcon 9 rocket northeast of the Florida space coast. Two and a half minutes later, the first-stage booster turned off the engines and unhooked to begin the descent to the SpaceX drone “Of course I still love you” in the Atlantic Ocean.
The single-stage Merlin single engine ignited to continue the mission in orbit, and the Falcon 9’s two-head hood dropped nearly three and a half minutes of flight.
The 15-story first-stage booster landed on the SpaceX drone about 630 kilometers northeast of Cape Canaveral. It was the sixth space trip back and forth for this particular booster, labeled B1051, since its debut on the Crew Dragon spacecraft unmanned test flight in March 2019.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on the SpaceX drone “Of course, I still love you” in the Atlantic Ocean.
This marks the 62nd recovery of the Falcon launch vehicle and the sixth landing at this stage.
Permanent coverage: https://t.co/B5TzWEpreQ pic.twitter.com/BzBcvQdqo5
– Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) October 18, 2020
At the same time, the upper stage of the Falcon 9 launched 60 Starlink Internet satellites into pre-orbit. Later, the upper stage engine resumed to maneuver the payload to an almost circular orbit 272 kilometers above the Earth with an inclination of 53 degrees to the equator.
60 flat-screen satellites separated from the rocket at 9:29 a.m. Pacific Time (1329 GMT) to complete the 70th successful SpaceX mission. The camera on the upper stage showed that 60 satellites – each weighing about a quarter of a ton – were flying freely from the Falcon 9 over the Indian Ocean.
“It’s a great way to start Sunday,” said Andy Tran, production manager at SpaceX, which ran the company’s webcast on Sunday.
SpaceX said two fairing recovery vessels had caught both halves of the fairing since launch on Sunday when the clamshells returned to Earth under parachutes. The network on one of the ships gave way when the fairing went into orbit, but SpaceX said that its team to recover in the ocean was fine.
After launching the satellites on Sunday, SpaceX launched 835 Starlink broadband relay stations, including prototypes that will not be used for commercial maintenance. This expands SpaceX’s leadership in operating the largest fleet of satellites in orbit.
The new Starlink spacecraft, built by SpaceX in Redmond, Washington, is expected to deploy solar panels and activate krypton ion propulsion to begin rising to about 550 kilometers, where they will begin to provide broadband services.
60 of the latest Starlink SpaceX Internet satellites have been deployed from the Falcon 9 rocket.
SpaceX reports that ships in the Atlantic captured both halves of the rocket’s fairing, but the net on one of the ships gave way. The recovery team is fine, says SpaceX. Https://t.co/B5TzWEpreQ pic.twitter.com/L1tTgVyDED
– Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) October 18, 2020
SpaceX plans to launch an initial unit 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 create a fleet of up to 12,000 small Starlink broadband stations operating on Ku-band, Ka-band and V-band.
There are also preliminary plans to build an even larger fleet of 30,000 additional Starlink satellites, but a network of this size has not been authorized by the FCC.
SpaceX says the Starlink network, designed for a low-latency Internet service, “is still in its infancy,” and engineers continue to test the system to collect latency data and speed tests. In a statement to the FCC on October 13, SpaceX said it had begun beta testing the Starlink network in several U.S. states and was providing Internet connectivity to previously unserved students in rural areas.
On Sept. 28, the Washington Department of War announced it was using the Starlink Internet service when emergency services and residents of Malden, Washington, were recovering from a wildfire that destroyed much of the city.
Earlier this month, Washington state officials announced that the Hoch tribe was beginning to use Starlink. SpaceX said it had recently installed Starlink ground-based terminals on the administration building and about 20 private homes in the Hoch Reserve.
“We are very far away,” said Melvingon Ashu, the deputy head of the Hoch tribe. “For the last eight years, I have felt that we have been paddling a river with a spoon and have reached almost nowhere when we get the Internet to the reserve.
“Out of nowhere, SpaceX just seemed to come up and just eject us into the 21st century,” Ashu said on October 7. “Our young people can study online, participate in videos. Tele-health will no longer be a problem, as will tele-mental health.”
In an FCC statement last week, SpaceX said the company had successfully launched and operated nearly 300 new Starlink spacecraft since June.
“SpaceX continues to invest in its rapid network deployment, including the launch of up to 120 satellites per month and the installation of large ground-based infrastructure across the country,” SpaceX told the FCC.
SpaceX seems to be rapidly launching more than 120 satellites in October.
The company added 60 satellites to the Starlink network with the launch of Falcon 9 on October 6 and launched another 60 spacecraft on Sunday. The Falcon 9 rocket is tentatively scheduled to take off from 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Wednesday at 12:36 p.m. Pacific Time (1636 GMT) with another Starlink satellite.
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