Today’s launch brings the total number of satellites in SpaceX’s Starlink broadband constellation to more than 1,300.
Today (24 March) is the 15th anniversary of SpaceX’s first ever launch, which was an unsuccessful flight of its Falcon 1 rocket. This morning’s event, which launched 60 Starlink satellites for the company’s low-orbit broadband internet system, fared better.
The satellites were launched by the Falcon 9 rocket, which has already been used for three Starlink missions, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
It brings the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit to more than 1,300. The goal is to install 1,440 of these flat-panelled satellites in an initial constellation that will bring broadband to people across the globe, particularly in rural areas. The Black Valley in Co Kerry has reportedly been chosen as a pilot location for Starlink.
While the company has nearly reached its target for the first tranche of satellites, SpaceX has said that the Starlink constellation could eventually include tens of thousands of satellites.
At around nine minutes after take-off today, the reusable Falcon 9’s first stage returned to Earth on its sixth successful landing. It was caught by SpaceX’s drone ship, called Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX’s newest boat also made its first appearance. Called the Shelia Bordelon, the ship pulled the rocket’s protective payload fairings out of the water.
In a webcast accompanying the launch, SpaceX production supervisor Andy Tran said it was the sixth landing for this booster and the 78th landing overall. “What a way to start the day,” he added.
SpaceX has been valued at $74bn after raising $850m in funding earlier this year. The Starlink satellite launch today marks the company’s ninth flight of 2021 so far, including a Starship rocket prototype test flight that recently exploded on impact.
Beta-testing of the Starlink broadband system is ongoing in the US, Canada, the UK and New Zealand, according to Space.com. SpaceX is also taking preorders before rolling out the service in full later this year, with a $99 deposit that can be paid by signing up to SpaceX’s website.