SpaceX's historic Falcon 9 booster that launched a pair of NASA astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon capsule in May and the ANASIS-II communications satellite for South Korea in July, deployed the thirteenth fleet of Starlink satellites this morning.
At around 7:29 a.m. EDT the twice-flown Falcon 9 lifted off for its third flight from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/b33QAIP7Mo— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 6, 2020
Nine minutes after liftoff, the booster came back to Earth, landing on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship situated approximately 633-kilometers downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. It became the 61st landing of an orbital-class rocket and the 43rd reuse of a Falcon 9's first-stage booster. Now this historic booster, identified as B1058, can fly a fourth time. SpaceX aims to reuse a particular first-stage at least 10 times.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/Jpkeiw9dIn— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 6, 2020
SpaceX also attempted to catch Falcon 9's payload fairing with twin ships, called 'Ms. Tree' and 'Ms. Chief', as each conducted a parachute-assisted landing at sea. "One of Falcon 9’s fairing halves supported two previous Starlink launches, and Ms. Tree successfully caught that fairing half after launch," SpaceX stated.
Ms. Tree caught the fairing half that flew in support of two previous missions! pic.twitter.com/p61bdBrdRP— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 6, 2020
The successful mission comes after SpaceX experienced a series of scrubs this month. "A happy end to Scrub-tober," SpaceX Integration and Test Engineer Siva Bharadvaj said during live commentary after the Starlink satellites were successfully deployed to low Earth orbit. The company's first attempt to conduct this mission was on September 17, unfavorable weather conditions caused the launch to be delayed. Then on September 28, weather concerns caused SpaceX to postpone the mission once again. Engineers later attempted to launch the historic Falcon 9 rocket on October 1, ground systems issues caused the launch to be aborted. They fixed the issue and opted to try again on October 5, but weather was iffy and the mission was scrubbed once again. Until the fifth attempt on October 6, the launch was a success.
The thirteenth fleet of 60 internet-beaming Starlink satellites was deployed to orbit at around 1 hour 1 minute after liftoff. These satellites are part of SpaceX's plan to offer high-speed broadband internet in rural areas around Earth to close the digital divide in places where internet is unreliable and nonexistent. Starlink service will be offered in northern areas of the United States and southern Canada before this year ends. Today's launch increased the constellation size to a total of around 768 satellites that will operate in low Earth orbit at an altitude of 550-kilometers.
Once these satellites reach their target position, we will be able to roll out a fairly wide public beta in northern US & hopefully southern Canada. Other countries to follow as soon as we receive regulatory approval.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 6, 2020
The Starlink network is currently undergoing a private beta test among company employees. Users receive internet signal from the satellites in space via dish user terminals. SpaceX is also assessing the network out in the 'real world.' It provided free service to first responders in Washington State after a wildfire that destroyed a small town called Malden. -- "In the wake of the wildfires that devastated areas of the state in August, first responders there have been using the service for their purposes and to help bring the residents of Malden internet service while they rebuild their community," SpaceX stated, "Malden is located about 35 miles south of Spokane, Washington, which falls within the northern latitudes our satellites currently service. The way emergency responders deployed Starlink in this context is representative of how Starlink works best—in remote or rural areas where internet connectivity is unavailable," the company wrote.
SpaceX Starlink is supporting first responders as they help rebuild small town after wildfireshttps://t.co/u6AIYw7O1e— Tesmanian.com (@Tesmanian_com) September 28, 2020
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.