SpaceX launches first 60 satellites of its internet network

Falcon 9 blasts off.                  SpaceX

Falcon 9 blasts off. SpaceX

SpaceX on Thursday launched a rocket containing the first 60 satellites of its "Starlink" constellation, which is meant to provide internet from space and could one day number 12,000 satellites.

The 60 satellites are packed into the fairing atop the Falcon 9 rocket, with SpaceX founder Elon Musk noting recently that it was a "tight fit". Starlink is created to provide a competitive connectivity option for the estimated 4 billion people around the world who can't afford or can't get access to broadband internet service.

Following the successful launch and on-orbit test of two demo Starlink satellites, Tintin-A and Tintin-B, in February 2018, SpaceX now stands ready to begin constructing its space-based internet constellation of 11,943 Starlink satellites.

And now here's a video of the actual deployment of 60 Starlink satellites.

The droneship was required because the 60-satellite payload, tipping the scales at some 30,000 pounds, marked the heaviest ever launched by a Falcon 9, and the rocket was not expected to have enough left-over propellant to fly back to Cape Canaveral after boosting the cargo out of the lower atmosphere. Eventually, the service will form a net of satellites around the Earth, featuring some 12,000 space robots in a constellation that leaves no corner of the planet without internet. On 16 May SpaceX delayed the launch due to excess upper-level winds.

A flat and compact design that is "significantly more scalable and capable than its first experimental iteration", noted SpaceX in the mission's press kit.

SpaceX ultimately wants Starlink to grow to include potentially thousands of satellites over the next few years.

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"There is a lot of new technology here, and it's possible that some of these satellites may not work and, in fact, a small possibility that all the satellites will not work", he said.

According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the Starlink mission is SpaceX's heaviest load.

This week's scheduled launch will be the second time SpaceX sent Starlink-related spacecraft into orbit. Each Starlink satellite weighs approximately 227 kg, and it's the most amount of satellites SpaceX has deployed at one time.

If SpaceX confirms most or all of its satellites deployed successfully, and they are able to make contract with ground stations, then the launch will mark the largest step forward for any company attempting such a project.

Falcon 9's first stage landed without incident on the drone ship known as "Of course I still love you".

The satellites will then use onboard propulsion to reach an operational altitude of 550 km.

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