Space Exploration Technologies Corp, commonly known as SpaceX, on Monday launched 60 mini satellites, the second batch of an orbiting network meant to provide global Internet coverage.
The Falcon 9 rocket blasted into the morning sky, marking the unprecedented fourth flight of a booster for SpaceX. The compact, flat-panel satellites — just 260kg each — are to join 60 launched in May.
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk wants to put thousands of the Starlink satellites in orbit to offer high-speed Internet service everywhere.
He plans to start the service next year in the northern US and Canada, with global coverage for populated areas after 24 launches.
Last month, Musk used an orbiting Starlink satellite to say on Twitter: “Whoa, it worked!!”
Employees gathered at company bases on both US coasts cheered when the first-stage booster landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic.
“These boosters are designed to be used 10 times. Let’s turn it around for a fifth, guys,” the company’s launch commentator said.
It also marked the first time that SpaceX used a previously flown nose cone.
The California-based company reuses rocket parts to cut costs.
Stacked flat inside the top of the rocket, the newest satellites were to maneuver even higher following liftoff, using krypton-powered thrusters.
There was a potential problem with one of the 60 that could prevent it from moving beyond its initial 280km-high orbit, SpaceX said.
In that case, the faulty satellite would be commanded to re-enter and burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere, it said.
Each satellite has an autonomous system for dodging space junk.
However, in September, the European Space Agency had to move one of its satellites out of the way of a Starlink satellite.
SpaceX later said that it corrected the problem.
SpaceX is among several companies interested in providing broadband Internet coverage worldwide, especially in areas where it costs too much or is unreliable. Others include OneWeb and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
Musk has said that Starlink revenue could help SpaceX develop rockets and spacecraft for travel to Mars, his overriding ambition.
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