SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sent up 57 more satellites on Friday for its Starlink broadband internet constellation, along with two BlackSky planet-watching satellites. The launching of the first stage booster marked its fifth flight.
The Falcon 9 lifted off at 1:12 a.m. EDT from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Falcon-9 is a two-stage, reusable rocket designed to launch people and payloads into the Earth’s orbit.
At 1:12 am EDT, booster B1051 ascended into the night sky, and two and a half minutes into the flight, the first stage got separated from the second stage and the descent of the first stage began. Meanwhile, the second stage continued to carry the Starlink and BlackSky satellites to orbit. About eight minutes after the lift-off, the core stage landed on the deck of SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), “Of Course I Still Love You” located in the Atlantic Ocean.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/szO3thMxqa
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 7, 2020
The mission marked the tenth successful landing of the Falcon 9 primary stage to a ground pad or the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) in 2020.
Starlink is a SpaceX-built satellite constellation which offers internet access. The constellation comprises of several mass-produced satellites in the low orbit.
To date, SpaceX has already launched 595 Starlink satellites as part of the company’s Starlink mega constellation. Elon Musk has said that SpaceX requires at least 400 to 800 orbital Starlink satellites to provide minimal coverage for the internet service. SpaceX has also hinted at a beta program that will allow the company to test its service on a global scale.
The company has already received approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for servicing up to one million terminals.
All the 57 Starlink satellites are equipped with sun visors to reduce their apparent brightness. The idea is to be able to reduce the complete brightness eventually to minimize the impact of the satellites on night sky scientific observations.
BlackSky satellites will offer images from space for industries that include defense, energy, research, etc.
This launch marked SpaceX’s 12th mission in the year 2020. Notably, the first stage of the Falcon 9 marked its 5th launch today.
However, today’s launch was SpaceX’s third attempt in executing the mission. Originally, the launch was scheduled to take place in mid-June. The mission was then rescheduled to 8th July but couldn’t be executed due to poor weather conditions.