SpaceX rocket launches 60 internet satellites into space
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
Following stage separation, Falcon 9's first stage has landed on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Later, SpaceX confirmed successful deployment of the 60 Starlink satellites.
Falcon 9's first stage had supported Crew Dragon's first flight to the International Space Station, launch of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, and the fourth Starlink mission, according to SpaceX. Falcon 9's fairing previously supported the AMOS-17 mission.
Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable, according to SpaceX.
The company's internet service will be available in the northern United States and Canada at some point this year, with global coverage planned for 2021.
SpaceX planned to launch into space about 12,000 Starlink satellites by 2024, and has revealed a bigger plan to launch 30,000 additional ones, bringing the total to 42,000.
Each satellite weighs about 260 kilograms and features a compact, flat-panel design that minimizes volume, allowing for a dense launch stack to take full advantage of the launch capabilities of the Falcon 9 rocket, according to SpaceX.
Starlink satellites are equipped with efficient ion thrusters powered by krypton that enable the satellites to orbit raise, maneuver in space, and deorbit at the end of their useful life. They can autonomously perform maneuvers to avoid collisions with space debris and other spacecraft, said SpaceX.
At end of life, the satellites will utilize their on-board propulsion system to deorbit over the course of a few months. In the unlikely event the propulsion system becomes inoperable, the satellites will burn up in Earth's atmosphere within one to five years, according to SpaceX.
The company has launched three Starlink missions so far in 2020. ■