SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink Internet relay platforms into orbit on Sunday as the company speeds up network testing in Washington state and advertises a series of nearly 300 satellites launched since June without damaging the spacecraft.
Nine Merlin 1D engines fired and fired the 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 mission to deploy satellites for SpaceX Starlink Broadband Network.
Kerosene-powered engines were suffocated to produce 1.7 million pounds of thrust, driving the Falcon 9 rocket northeast of Florida’s space coast. Two and a half minutes later, the booster from the first stage turned off its engines and disconnected to begin the descent to the SpaceX drone “Of course I still love you” in the Atlantic Ocean.
Merlin’s single-stage engine from the second stage caught fire to continue the mission in orbit, and the two-piece Falcon 9’s nose cover threw nearly three and a half minutes into flight.
The 15-story booster from the first stage anchored its landing on the ship of a SpaceX drone about 630 kilometers northeast of Cape Canaveral. This was the sixth space trip and back for this particular booster – designated B1051 – since its debut in an unmanned test flight on the Crew Dragon spacecraft 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 rocket accelerator and the sixth landing for this stage.
Continuing 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 delivered 60 Starlink Internet satellites into pre-orbit. Later, the upper stage engine returned to maneuver the payload in an almost circular orbit 172 miles (278 kilometers) above Earth, tilting 53 degrees toward the equator.
The 60 flat-panel satellites separated from the rocket at 9:29 a.m. EDT (1329 GMT) to complete the 70th consecutive successful SpaceX mission. A camera in the upper stage showed the 60 satellites – each weighing about a quarter of a ton – flying freely from the Falcon 9 over the Indian Ocean.
“Great way to start on Sunday,” said Andy Tran, production manager at SpaceX, which hosted the company’s website on Sunday.
SpaceX said the two fairing recovery vessels had caught both halves of the fairing since Sunday’s launch when the mussels returned to Earth under parachutes. The network of one of the ships gave way until the fairing settled into orbit, but SpaceX said its ocean recovery team was fine.
With the launch of the satellites on Sunday, SpaceX launched 835 Starlink broadband relay stations into orbit, including prototypes that will not be used for commercial services. This extends 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 ions to begin rising to approximately 550 kilometers, where it will begin providing broadband service.
SpaceX’s 60 newest Starlink Internet satellites are deployed by the Falcon 9 rocket.
SpaceX says ships in the Atlantic have caught both halves of the rocket’s fairing fairing, but the network of one of the ships has given 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 operate an initial 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 possibly provide a fleet of up to 12,000 small Starlink broadband stations operating in Ku-band, Ka-band and V-frequencies.
There are also preliminary plans for 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 are continuing to test the latency data collection system and speed tests. In a statement to the FCC on October 13, SpaceX said it had begun beta testing of the Starlink network in a number of US states and provided an Internet connection to hitherto unserved students in rural areas.
On September 28, the Washington Department of War announced that it was using the Starlink Internet service as rescuers and residents of Maldon, Washington, recovering from a fire that destroyed much of the city.
Earlier this month, Washington government officials said the Hoh tribe was starting to use the Starlink service. SpaceX said it recently installed Starlink ground terminals on an office building and about 20 private homes in the Hoh Tribe Reserve.
“We are very far away,” said Melvingon Ashu, vice president of the Ho tribe. “For the last eight years, I felt like we were rowing on the river with a spoon and we almost didn’t get anywhere until we got to the internet to the reservation.
“It seemed out of nowhere, SpaceX had just appeared and was just catapulting us into the 21st century,” Ashue said on October 7. “Our young people are able to study online, to participate in videos. Tele-health will no longer be a problem, as will tele-mental health. “
In an FCC statement last week, SpaceX officials said the company had successfully launched and operated nearly 300 new Starlink spacecraft since June without failure.
“SpaceX continues to invest in its rapid network deployment, including the launch of up to 120 satellites per month and the installation of extensive ground infrastructure across the country,” SpaceX told the FCC.
SpaceX seems to be keeping up with the launch of more than 120 satellites in October.
The company added 60 satellites to the Starlink network with the launch of the Falcon 9 on October 6 and launched another 60 spacecraft on Sunday. The Falcon 9 rocket is pre-scheduled to take off from Air Force Landing 40 at Cape Canaveral at 12:36 p.m. EDT (1636 GMT) on Wednesday with another group of Starlink satellites.
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