Featured Image Source: SpaceX
Today, April 22nd, SpaceX conducted the seventh Starlink mission. A thrice-flown Falcon 9 rocket launched 60 internet-beaming satellites into low Earth orbit at around 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission marked the 84th Falcon 9 flight, it officially became the most flown operational rocket in the United States.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/fBYpawIh4j— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 22, 2020
The Falcon 9 deployed the cluster of Starlink satellites, then it's first-stage booster, production number B1051.4, performed a controlled vertical landing. About 9 minutes after liftoff, booster B1051.4 landed on the Of Course I Still Love You autonomous drone ship situated in the Atlantic Ocean, about 628-kilometers downrange. SpaceX engineer Lauren Lyons said during a webcast of today's launch:
"We have a rocket. This is the fourth landing for this booster!"
Its fourth recovery is a great milestone, paving the way towards rocket reusability. Overall, Wednesday’s launch marks the 51st landing of an orbital-class rocket –a first in the history of rocketry!
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship! pic.twitter.com/yl2T8rpJXq— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 22, 2020
Successful deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed pic.twitter.com/h3e6QmKRue— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 22, 2020
SpaceX stated, “Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.” The rocket company aims to fund its space exploration program by offering service to customers from around the world. It plans to roll out service in parts of the northern United States and Canada before this year ends. The Starlink network will be composed of over 12,000 satellites. Today’s mission brought the total to 420 satellites in low orbit (excludes 2 experimental satellites), these will operate at an altitude of approximately 550-kilometers. Starlink’s design is a single solar array with a flat type of antenna, which can transmit in multiple directions and frequencies. To move through orbits in space, the satellites are equipped with ion thrusters powered by krypton. Ion thrusters use a charge difference to shoot ions out into a specific direction, creating a force to move the satellite in the opposite direction. All 60 satellites deployed today will reach an operational altitude in the weeks ahead.
There are now 420 operational Starlink satellites 🛰 😉— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 22, 2020
The company aims to conduct at least two Starlink dedicated missions per month to complete the network. According to SpaceX officials, it will take about 400 satellites to establish minor internet coverage and 800 satellites for moderate coverage. Customers will receive Starlink’s signal from space by utilizing 19-inch user terminals that look like a "UFO on a stick," and have "motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky." The Federal Communications Commission granted SpaceX approval to operate as many as 1 million user terminals, to roll-out service in the United States before March 2021. Every deployment of 60 satellites could deliver 1 terabit of bandwidth, which could potentially support 40,000 users streaming ultra-high-definition content at the same time.