Renowned commercial space company SpaceX routinely launches reusable Falcon 9 rockets with fairleads packed with space satellites and International Space Station supplies for its paying customers, but in a more recent launch, SpaceX deployed 60 of its Starlink internet satellites in one fell swoop.
Image Credit: SpaceX via Twitter
SpaceX had originally planned to launch the first 60 units of its Starlink satellite internet system just over a week prior, but the company purportedly stood down at the time, citing necessary software updates for the Starlink internet satellites themselves and an opportunity to ensure a successful flight. Fortunately, all that hassle seems to have paid off.
After standing down from the previous launch opportunity, SpaceX’s upright Falcon 9 finally ignited its nine Merlin engines on Thursday, May 23rd. The rocket blasted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at approximately 10:30 P.M. Eastern time, ferrying all 60 of the company’s Starlink internet satellites into space as expected.
Shortly after the launch, the Falcon 9’s first stage fell back to Earth, eventually sticking a successful upright landing on the drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You,’ which was hiding out in the Atlantic Ocean at the time of the launch. The Starlink satellites then deployed almost an hour after reaching space.
The vast majority of Falcon 9 launch missions carry only a small number of satellites into space, but this particular instance differed from the norm because SpaceX engineers developed a unique flat-pack design into the Starlink satellites such that several could fit into the Falcon 9 rocket’s fairlead at one time:
Image Credit: Elon Musk via Twitter
Perhaps unsurprisingly, SpaceX plans to reinforce its Starlink satellite internet system in the future by launching additional satellites into space in 60-satellite increments over time. Elon Musk says that at least 400 Starlink satellites would be necessary before any public access could be possible and that 800 satellites would be better suited for optimal performance.
Those interested in watching the details from Thursday’s Falcon 9 rocket launch can view it below: