Today, February 4, SpaceX launched the eighteenth fleet of 60 internet-beaming Starlink satellites. At around 1:19 a.m. EST, a four-times-flown Falcon 9 rocket lifted off for the fifth time igniting the night sky with its nine powerful Merlin 1D engines. The previously-flown rocket booster (B1060-5) propelled the satellites to low Earth orbit where they will beam high-speed broadband internet connection to customer’s phased-array dish antennas. SpaceX is actively assessing the network’s performance. SpaceX Senior Engineer Kate Tice shared last year that the Starlink satellites in orbit have provided “super-low latency and download speeds greater than 100 megabits per second. That means our latency is low enough to play the fastest online video games and our download speeds are fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once,” Tice said. SpaceX recently told the Federal Communications Commission it plans to increase Starlink’s download speeds from around ~100 megabits per second (Mbps) to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) in the future, with low-latency under 30 milliseconds (ms).
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/fntllf6TpI— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 4, 2021
This morning, approximately nine minutes after liftoff, the rocket booster returned from space - landing on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous droneship situated around 633-kilometers downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. “This mission marked the fifth launch and landing of this booster; it last flew less than one month ago,” SpaceX stated, “Rapid reusability is key to reducing the cost of traveling to space.” B1060-5 previous mission launched the Türksat-5A satellite for Turkey in January. The booster also supported the United States Space Force GPS III Space Vehicle 03 mission on June 30, 2020 and two Starlink satellite deployments in 202. Today’s landing is SpaceX’s 74th recovery of an orbital-class rocket. Booster B1060-5 will now be refurbished to fly a sixth time on a future mission.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/4idBRdW65H— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 4, 2021
The 60 Starlink satellites where deployed to orbit at around one hour after liftoff. In the days ahead each satellite will separate, unfurl their single solar panel, and use onboard Krypton-powered ion thrusters to raise into a higher operational altitude of 550-kilometers above Earth. This mission was the eighteenth Starlink deployment which increased the constellation’s size to approximately 1,085 satellites (including prototypes and satellites that may have been deorbited). The Starlink constellation will consist of deploying over 4,400 satellites to offer internet globally even to places where internet does not exist.
Deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed pic.twitter.com/96pHRHXZi0— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 4, 2021
The company is currently offering Starlink Beta service to select customers living in northern United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and is pending final approval in several countries globally. You can sign-up via Starlink.com to receive updates about when service will be available in your country. SpaceX officials state 24 Starlink missions will enable the company to offer service worldwide. The company is getting closer to that goal. On Friday morning, at around 5:14 a.m. EST, SpaceX will launch the nineteenth fleet of 60 satellites from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Launch Complex-40. A SpaceX photographer captured an incredible set of photos featuring today's liftoff and the next Falcon 9 awaiting to deploy the next fleet of satellites, pictured below.
This mission marked the fifth launch and landing of this booster; it last flew less than one month ago— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 4, 2021
All Images Source: SpaceX
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.