SpaceX's previously-flown Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Monday, February 15. The rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines ignited the midnight sky as it launched to orbit propelling the nineteenth fleet of 60 Starlink satellites. SpaceX currently provides Starlink beta service to around 10,000 users in the United States and abroad. The company also started to accept preorders of the service via Starlink.com. This nineteenth Starlink launch gets SpaceX’s closer to providing broadband service globally, company officials said they expect to be able to provide 'moderate near-global' internet coverage after completing twenty-four satellite deployments.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/mcXAdid2wW— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 16, 2021
The Falcon 9 first-stage booster that supported Monday’s mission is identified as B1059-6, it was its sixth flight. Previously the booster launched SpaceX’s 19th and 20th NASA Commercial Resupply Missions to the International Space Station, one Starlink satellite deployment, as well as Argentina’s SAOCOM 1B mission, and the United States National Reconnaissance Office NROL-108 mission. SpaceX attempted to recover the rocket's first-stage a sixth time but upon return the booster missed landing on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. "It does look like we did not land our booster on Of Course I Still Love You tonight," said Jessica Anderson, SpaceX manufacturing engineer, "It is unfortunate that we did not recover this booster but our second-stage is still on a nominal trajectory." SpaceX engineers aim to reuse Falcon 9 [Block 5] boosters at least ten times with little refurbishment between flights. Today was the first time in over a year that SpaceX failed to ace the propulsive landing. The company has not shared why they could not recover B1059-6.
Deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed pic.twitter.com/apZ7oTOvNk— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 16, 2021
However, Falcon 9's second-stage successfully released the 60 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit around one hour after liftoff. In the coming days each will unfurl their single solar panel to separate and use their onboard krypton-powered ion thrusters to raise into an operational altitude of approximately 550-kilometers. This deployment increased the constellation size to around 1,145 satellites that beam high-speed broadband internet down to Earth. "Starlink is ideally suited for areas of the globe where connectivity has typically been a challenge. Unbounded by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable," the company said via Twitter. “Starlink is available to a limited number of users per coverage area at this time. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis,” SpaceX announced through Starlink.com. The website now allows customers to preorder a Starlink Kit priced at $499 USD. Monthly internet service fee is $99 USD per month. “Your Starlink Kit arrives with everything you need to get online including your Starlink, Wi-Fi router, power supply, cables and mounting tripod,” the company states. The Starlink network has no data cap, it can currently provide download speeds of over 100 megabits per second with low-latency under 30 milliseconds, according to SpaceX.
Unbounded by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 16, 2021
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.