SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off an eighth time to launch internet-beaming Starlink satellites

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off an eighth time to launch internet-beaming Starlink satellites

SpaceX is getting closer to providing ‘near-global’ internet coverage with every Starlink satellite deployment. The company recently told the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) it has around 10,000 users (and counting) in the U.S and abroad, including in Canada and regions in the United Kingdom. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said "most of Earth" will have broadband coverage “by end of year, all by next year, then it’s about densifying coverage.” Early morning on March 4, a seven-times-flown Falcon 9 lifted off an eighth time to launch the twentieth fleet of 60 internet-beaming Starlink satellites. The rocket illuminated the sky at 3:34 a.m. EST as it propelled to orbit from Florida’s Launch Complex-39A located in NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The rocket booster, identified as B1049-8, previously flew on seven missions; including five Starlink satellite deployments, the Iridium-8 mission, the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission. Approximately nine minutes after liftoff, the reusable Falcon 9 first-stage booster returned to Earth, it landed on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous droneship situated in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 630-kilometers downrange. 

“And we have confirmation of our successful stage one landing," said Youmei Zhou, a propulsion engineer at SpaceX, during the mission’s live broadcast (video below). “This will mark our 75th successful recovery of an orbital class rocket and the eighth recovery of this particular booster,” they said. The successful booster recovery came after SpaceX failed to land a booster during the twentieth Starlink mission in February. To date, the company has recovered 75 orbital-class rocket boosters and reused 55. Rocket reusability is an important objective for the company because it reduces the cost of spaceflight. SpaceX aims to reuse Falcon 9 rocket boosters ten times.

All Images Source: SpaceX 

Around an hour after liftoff, Falcon 9’s second-stage released the fleet of 60 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. The deployment increased the constellation’s size to approximately 1,205 Starlink satellites (including two prototypes and some satellites that may no longer be operational) that operate at an altitude of 550-kilometers. In the days ahead each satellite will unfurl their single solar array and use their krypton-powered ion thrusters to rise into their operational altitude. The company plans to launch over 4,000 satellites to provide reliable internet coverage worldwide.
SpaceX started taking preorders of the internet service via on a ‘first-come, first-serve’ basis. The satellite network currently provides download speeds ranging from 50 Mb/s to 150 Mb/s [megabits per second] and latency from 20 ms to 40 ms [milliseconds], according to the company. “Speed will double to ~300Mb/s and latency will drop to ~20ms later this year,” Musk said.



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About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

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.

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