SpaceX launched 60 mini-satellites to improve global internet coverage

12 Nov 2019

Image: PA Media

SpaceX is among several companies, including Amazon and OneWeb, interested in providing broadband internet coverage worldwide.

SpaceX has launched 60 mini-satellites, the second batch of an orbiting network meant to provide global internet coverage.

The Falcon rocket blasted into the morning sky over Florida yesterday (11 November), marking the unprecedented fourth flight of a booster for SpaceX. The compact flat-panel satellites – around 260kg each – will join 60 launched in May.

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk wants to put thousands of these Starlink satellites in orbit, to offer high-speed internet service everywhere. He plans to start the service next year in the northern US and Canada, with global coverage for populated areas after 24 launches.

Last month, Musk used an orbiting Starlink satellite to send a tweet: “Whoa, it worked!!”

Employees that were gathered at company bases on both coasts cheered when the first-stage booster landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic.

“These boosters are designed to be used 10 times. Let’s turn it around for a fifth, guys,” said the company’s launch commentator.

This also marked the first time SpaceX used a previously flown nose cone, which was caught in a giant net in June 2019 as it plummeted back to earth. The California-based company reuses rocket parts to cut costs.

When the idea to retrieve used nose cones was conceived, Musk remarked: “Imagine you had $6m in cash in a pallet flying through the air, and it’s going to smash into the ocean. Would you try recover that? Yes. Yes, you would.”

Each satellite has an autonomous system for dodging space junk. In September, however, the European Space Agency had to move one of its satellites out of the way of a Starlink satellite. SpaceX later said it corrected the problem.

SpaceX is among several companies interested in providing broadband internet coverage worldwide, especially in areas where it costs too much or is unreliable. Others include OneWeb and Amazon.

– PA Media