A six-times-flown Falcon 9 rocket lit up Florida’s coast tonight as SpaceX launched the sixteenth fleet of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. At 9:13 p.m. EST, the rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex-40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This booster is special, today’s launch marks its seventh flight to space – the most re-flown Falcon 9 ever!
SpaceX is the only company in the world capable of reliably reusing orbital-class rocket boosters. The Falcon 9’s first-stage used today previously supported six missions. The booster, identified as B1049.7, previously conducted the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018, the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019, and four Starlink missions in May 2019, January 2020, June 2020, and August 2020.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/a9O2MqcsCV— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 25, 2020
Approximately nine minutes after liftoff, Falcon 9's booster successfully returned from space a seventh time; It landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship stationed 633-kilometers downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. Now, this booster can be launched an eighth time. SpaceX engineers aim to reuse a particular Falcon 9's first-stage booster at least 10 times. Tonight’s mission takes the company closer to the reusability goal, which significantly reduces the cost of spaceflight.
Falcon 9’s first stage lands on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship! pic.twitter.com/RZGbgzDBwf— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 25, 2020
The sixteenth fleet of Starlink satellites was deployed 15-minutes after liftoff. In the coming weeks the 60 satellites will use their onboard Krypton-powered ion thrusters to move into a higher operational orbit of 550-kilometers. SpaceX now has roughly 960 internet-beaming satellites in orbit. By 2021, SpaceX aims to provide internet coverage worldwide, primarily in areas on Earth where broadband connection is limited and completely unavailable. The company already offers a Starlink Beta broadband service in portions of northern United States and southern Canada, and plans to begin offering service to more customers in late-January. To be selected as a Beta customer you can sign up via Starlink.com.
Deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed pic.twitter.com/Ddg9EPn5gP— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 25, 2020
"We’re continuously improving all of the parts of the system. We update all of our satellites weekly, and push software updates to the Starlink dishes, WiFi routers, and phone app every couple weeks,” a SpaceX engineer shared during a Reddit 'Ask Me Anything' discussion, “All the feedback so far has been invaluable and is being directly incorporated into engineering decisions across the organization," they said on Friday, "This has been really inspiring to us all. We're incredibly excited to continue on this journey together as we bring internet to disconnected populations across the world. And, then to Mars!"
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.