A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that stood tall and proud at the launch pad at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ignited its engines and lofted a grand total of 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit around the Earth on Monday. The rocket’s first stage performed in previous notable missions including Iridium-7, SAOCOM-1A, and Nusantara Satu. The fairing flew previously on the Falcon Heavy rocket’s recent Arabsat-6A mission.
Shortly after liftoff, the first stage fell back to Earth and made yet another successful landing on the commercial space company’s Atlantic Ocean-based drone ship named ‘Of Course I Still Love You,’ but the company did not attempt to recover the rocket’s fairing this time around. The latter is somewhat of a bummer since this was actually the first time SpaceX has ever used a previously flown fairing.
Today’s bulk of satellites will join an additional 60 others that launched into space half a year ago, but they certainly won’t be the last. Elon Musk’s grand scheme is to have more than 42,000 Starlink satellites forming a planet-wide grid that covers every square foot of the Earth. This internet system will allegedly provide high-speed, low-latency internet that bests even modern-day fiber optics in terms of latency mitigation; it will accomplish this by transmitting data through the vacuum of space rather than through a glass cable.
The sheer number of satellites that SpaceX plans to launch to make Starlink possible have understandably sparked some outcry in the astronomical community. The biggest concern is that having so many satellites in the way of land-based optical equipment could infringe on future astronomical studies, but the debate rages on.