SpaceX has successfully launched its latest batch of 60 Starlink satellites from the ‘Slick 40’ launch pad in Cape Canaveral.
The cluster of satellites was twice delayed earlier this week due to adverse weather. but today’s launch went off without a hitch.
The 229-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket went off on-time at 14:06 GMT (9:06ET) and followed a ‘nominal trajectory’ throughout’, SpaceX said on its live broadcast.
Fairings — the nosecone of the rocket — released successfully and will try and be caught by two fairing recovery vessels, ‘Ms. Tree’ and ‘Ms. Chief’ in approximately half an hour.
On its third use, the main rocket, powered by Merlin engines, successfully completed a vertical landing on the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ in the Atlantic Ocean.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, hopes to eventually send thousands of satellites into space to beam internet down to all of Earth’s inhabitants.
This launch takes the current total of Starlink satellites in orbit to 180.
Astronomers have condemned the project since the first launch in May 2019 over fears it will blot out the night sky and make scientific research more difficult.
WATCH THE SPACEX LAUNCH LIVE STREAM BELOW
SpaceX has successfully launched its next batch of 60 Starlink satellites from the ‘Slick 40’ launch pad in Cape Canaveral. It took off exactly on time (pictured)
The 229-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket went off on-time at 14:06 GMT (9:06ET) and followed a ‘nominal trajectory’ throughout’, SpaceX said on its live broadcast
The Falcon 9 rocketsoared into the sky and rapidly left Earth’s atmosphere, loaded with around a million pounds of thrust provided by its kerosene rocket fuel
The mission took off from the launch pad ‘Slick 40’ at Cape Canaveral and avoided the poor weather conditions of the previous two days
Many stargazers and scientists have reported seeing a train of the satellites over the past few months in what would have been a clear night sky.
University of Alabama astronomer Bill Keel told the AFP that the sighting of the first Starlink satellite train had experts trying to extrapolate what effect artificial constellations of such steady brightness might have as they grow in number.
Fears developed, he said, that ‘in 20 years or less, for a good part the night anywhere in the world, the human eye would see more satellites than stars.’
However, SpaceX believes this project will do more good than harm, as ‘Starlink will provide fast, reliable internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable,’ the company writes in its mission description.
As part of the last launch a satellite covered in a dark, anti-reflexive coating was sent to orbit.
SpaceX’s live stream presenter today said the data from this experiment had not yet been received and no satellites on today’s mission featured the unique coating.
The satellites are designed to provide broadband coverage across the world’s surface.
Today’s launch is the third operational batch of satellites into orbit around the Earth, bringing Starlink’s budding infrastructure to a total of 180.
Each spacecraft weighs just 575lbs (260kg) and forms part of the larger Starlink constellation.
When fully loaded with kerosene rocket fuel, it holds more than one million pounds of thrust which will be depleted in around three minutes, SpaceX engineer Jessica Anderson said on the live broadcast.
Satellites orbit 341 miles above Earth and the main rocket will land on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Approximately 45 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX’s two fairing recovery vessels, ‘Ms. Tree’ and ‘Ms. Chief,’ will attempt to recover the two nosecone pieces.
Today’s launch (pictured) takes the current total of Starlink satellites in orbit to 180. Astronomers have condemned the project since the first launch in May 2019 over fears it will blot out the night sky and make scientific research more difficult
Fairings — the nosecone of the rocket — released successfully and will try and be caught by two fairing recovery vessels, ‘Ms. Tree’ and ‘Ms. Chief’ in approximately half an hour (pictured)
On its third use, the main rocket, powered by Merlin engines, successfully completed a vertical landing on the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ in the Atlantic Ocean
Today’s take-off is scheduled for 14:06 GMT (9:06ET) and weather is 80 per cent favourable, SpaceX claims
Today’s successful take-off at 14:06 GMT (9:06ET) , despite the previous weather issues, went off without a hitch and takes the total Starlink constellation number to 120
SpaceX announced on Twitter that it was forced to ‘stand down’ following strong upper level winds on Monday. it also confirmed it will be launching tomorrow at 9:28 am EST (14:28 GMT)
SpaceX has been forced to delay today’s launch of another 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. The cluster of satellites was set to be launched at 9:49 ET (14:49 GMT) from Cape Canaveral
‘Strong upper level winds’ were cited as the reason for the cancellation and it is now scheduled for launch tomorrow at 9:28 am EST (14:28 GMT)
Dozens of satellites have already been launched and Musk has received clearance from the relevant authorities to send thousands more into orbit.
The previous launch on January 6 featured one satellite covered in a dark coating designed to appease to appease disgruntled astronomers.
It is hoped the anti-reflective test material will be the first step in a compromise to allow Starlink to thrive while not interfering with views of space from Earth.
Last month, astronomers called plans for the high-speed global internet a ‘tragedy’ and said they are getting in the way of key scientific observations.
‘The night sky is a commons — and what we have here is a tragedy of the commons,’ Imperial College London astrophysicist Dave Clements told the BBC.
The proposed constellations, he added, ‘present a foreground between what we’re observing from the Earth and the rest of the Universe.
‘So they get in the way of everything. And you’ll miss whatever is behind them, whether that’s a nearby potentially hazardous asteroid or the most distant quasar in the Universe.’
The satellites will be a particular menace to large-scale surveys of the sky, like Chile’s planned Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).
‘What we want to do with LSST and other telescopes is to make a real-time motion picture of how the sky is changing,’ explained Dr Clements.
‘Now we have these satellites that interrupt observations, and it’s like someone’s walking around firing a flashbulb every now and again.’
SpaceX is looking into the potential to make the satellites less reflective, in a bid to reduce their interference with astronomers on Earth.
One specific craft in tonight’s launch is fitted with a less-reflective surface to reduce glare and is being used as a test case to see how it affects its performance.
Laura Forczyk, a space analyst, said the measures’ effectiveness was still uncertain.
The minor setback will not deter SpaceX as it presses on with its controversial mission to beam down internet for all via an interconnected satellite constellation. Skygazers have repeatedly bemoaned the shiny spacecraft
Researchers fear that SpaceX’s artificial constellation of broadband-providing satellites (pictured) could increasingly spoil views of the night sky and hinder astronomy
‘SpaceX has not yet eased the minds of astronomers concerned about the reflectivity of their Starlink satellites,’ she told AFP.
‘The real test will be the days following launch when the smallsats are close together and in a lower altitude before ascending to their final orbit.
‘Astronomers and stargazers will be able to compare the brightness of this current batch of smallsats compared to previous versions.’
Another criticism of more crowded skies is it will result in expensive collisions between satellites, potentially creating thousands of pieces of new space junk.
SpaceX says it has a plan for that, too: its Starlink satellites deploy at an altitude of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and then engage their ion thrusters to reach an orbit of 550 kilometers (340 miles).
At the end of their life-cycles, the satellites will use their propulsion systems to de-orbit over the course of a few months – or if these fail, they will burn up naturally in the atmosphere in under five years, compared to the thousands of years required at higher altitudes
WHAT IS STARLINK AND WHAT ARE ITS GOALS?
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched the third batch of its ‘Starlink’ space internet satellites – taking the total to 180.
They form a constellation of thousands of satellites, designed to provide low-cost broadband internet service from low Earth orbit.
The constellation, informally known as Starlink, and under development at SpaceX’s facilities in Redmond, Washington.
Its goal is to beam superfast internet into your home from space.
While satellite internet has been around for a while, it has suffered from high latency and unreliable connections.
Starlink is different. SpaceX says putting a ‘constellation’ of satellites in low earth orbit would provide high-speed, cable-like internet all over the world.
The billionaire’s company wants to create the global system to help it generate more cash.
Musk has previously said the venture could give three billion people who currently do not have access to the internet a cheap way of getting online.
It could also help fund a future city on Mars.
Helping humanity reach the red planet is one of Musk’s long-stated aims and was what inspired him to start SpaceX.
The company recently filed plans with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit above the Earth – three times as many that are currently in operation.
‘Once fully deployed, the SpaceX system will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service,’ the firm said.
‘Every point on the Earth’s surface will see, at all times, a SpaceX satellite.’
The network will provide internet access to the US and the rest of the world, it added.
It is expected to take more than five years and $9.8 billion (£7.1bn) of investment, although satellite internet has proved an expensive market in the past and analysts expect the final bill will be higher.
Musk compared the project to ‘rebuilding the internet in space’, as it would reduce reliance on the existing network of undersea fibre-optic cables which criss-cross the planet.
In the US, the FCC welcomed the scheme as a way to provide internet connections to more people.