Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX deployed the fourteenth fleet of Starlink satellites this morning. At around 8:25 a.m. EDT, a five-times-flown Falcon 9 lifted off for its sixth flight from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. "A great way to start off a Sunday!" SpaceX production supervisor Andy Tran said during the mission's Live broadcast.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/nocQLTMe1G— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 18, 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 62 landing of an orbital-class rocket and the 44th reuse of a Falcon 9's first-stage booster. Now this historic booster, identified as B1051, can be reused a seventh time. SpaceX aims to reuse a particular first-stage at least 10 times. "The booster supporting this launch has flown on five previous missions, and this mission will be the third flight for both fairing halves," SpaceX stated before the mission. The B1051 booster previously launched three Starlink missions, deployed a RADARSAT satellite, and conducted SpaceX's Crew Dragon first uncrewed demonstration (Demo-1) mission to the International Space Station.
The launch commentator, Tran, shared that the fairing halves were recovered with the GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief recovery ships, which are equipped with a large net to catch the fairing as each conduct a parachute-assisted fall. Tran said the net on the Ms. Tree ship experienced some issues upon catching the fairing.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/mGBLwsC6Gs— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 18, 2020
The fourteenth fleet of 60 internet-beaming Starlink satellites was deployed to orbit at around 1 hour 3 minutes after liftoff. These satellites are part of SpaceX's plan to offer high-speed broadband internet in rural areas to close the digital divide globally. "Falcon 9 launches 60 Starlink satellites – one step closer to providing high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable," SpaceX stated after the successful deployment.
Deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed pic.twitter.com/QVv8m7gClz— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 18, 2020
These 60 Starlink satellites will operate in low Earth orbit. In the coming weeks, each satellite will use its onboard krypton-powered ion thrusters to raise itself to a higher operational altitude of approximately 550-kilometers above our planet. Today's mission increased the constellation size to a total of 828 satellites orbiting Earth. SpaceX already owns the largest broadband constellation in the world. Next Starlink mission is scheduled for Wednesday, October 21st. SpaceX is speeding up its satellite deployments to roll-out internet service in Northern United States and Southern Canada before this year ends.
Falcon 9 launches 60 Starlink satellites – one step closer to providing high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable pic.twitter.com/3J06rSFBqm— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 18, 2020
SpaceX is currently private beta testing the network. "As our Starlink network is still in its early stages, the Starlink team continues to test the system, collecting latency data and performing speed tests of the service," the company said. 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 said, "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.
"The team also recently installed Starlinks on the Administrative Center building and about 20 private homes on the Hoh Tribe Reservation, located in a remote area of western Washington State where internet access is limited or completely unavailable," SpaceX representatives shared.
"The Hoh are a Native American tribe living at the mouth of the Hoh river in western Washington state on the Pacific Coast," Tran said during this morning's launch broadcast. "This remote location had previously hindered access to high-speed broadband, but after the Starlinks were installed the tribe went from practically no connectivity to high-speed internet overnight."
The Vice Chairman for the Hoh Tribe Melvinjohn Ashue says his community lives in a very remote area, "It seems out of nowhere SpaceX came up and catapulted us into the 21st century. Our youth are able to do education online ... Telehealth is no longer gonna' be an issue, as well as telebehavioral health..." Ashue stated earlier this month.
SpaceX plans to rollout a public beta testing phase of the network soon, and is asking potential customers to sign-up via e-mail at Starlink.com to receive updates of when the service will be available in their area.
Watch Today's Starlink Mission!
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.