SpaceX successfully launched its 11th batch of Starlink satellites atop the Falcon 9 rocket on 18th August at 8:01 pm. IST from Cape Caneveral Space Launch Complex 40, Florida.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 18, 2020
The mission marked a milestone of the first 6th flight of a booster while also being the 100th mission of the SpaceX company. Earlier Musk had tweeted that “Some big milestones [were] coming up.”
In this mission, SpaceX and Planet Lab jointly launched 58 Starlink satellites and three SkySat Earth observatory satellites into the lower earth orbit.
1 minute and 12 seconds after the launch, the vehicle entered the Max Q (moment of maximum dynamic pressure). Main engine cutoff or MECO took place at 2 minute 33 seconds. Just three seconds later, stage 1 and stage 2 separated successfully.
Stage 1 entry burn started at 6 minutes and 48 seconds after the launch. This is the phase where stage 1 slows down for entry into the atmosphere. The entry burn lasted for about 20 seconds. Stage 1 successfully landed at 00:08:42 post-launch. It nailed the landing which occurred on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean. With this landing, the Falcon-9 booster became the first one to complete six flights and landings.
The second engine cutoff (SECO) took place about 10 seconds later. The first SkySat satellite was deployed at T plus 12 minutes and 32 seconds. Within the course of the next minute, the rest of the two SkySat satellites were also deployed successfully. The satellites were deployed in three sequential manoeuvres.
All the 58 Starlink satellites positioned into the orbit about 46 minutes after the launch.
The Starlink mega constellation is being built to provide high speed, low-latency internet services to people on Earth – especially in the places where internet service are not available. With this launch, the Starlink mega constellation will have about 655 satellites. SpaceX wants to deploy at least 12,000 satellites into the lower Earth orbit. Currently, SpaceX is deploying about 60 Starlink satellites every two weeks. At this rate, Starlink is expected to reach its target coverage by the middle of 2021.
The SkySat satellites have been built by Planet Labs. The SkySat constellation will be used for high-resolution Earth imaging to monitor specific locations that will help in optimizing supply chains and humanitarian relief efforts.