Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX aims to close the digital divide in rural areas across the world by providing affordable satellite broadband internet. The aerospace company hopes to fund missions to Mars via the Starlink network. SpaceX is deploying the Starlink satellite constellation in low Earth orbit; There are around 708 internet-beaming satellites already in space, out of the 4,409 satellites that will comprise the network. Today, October 1st, SpaceX attempted to launch the thirteenth fleet of Starlink satellites from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. A historic Falcon 9 rocket booster, the same one that deployed the first NASA astronauts to orbit in May, is at Launch Complex 39A set to launch 60 internet-beaming Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.
The first-stage booster also deployed the ANASIS-II communications satellite for South Korea in July. SpaceX is the only company in the aerospace industry that has achieved to successfully reuse a rocket booster more than once. Reusing a Falcon 9 booster is part of SpaceX's program to reduce the cost of spaceflight. Engineers aim to reuse a particular rocket ten times. So far, they have achieved reusing a first-stage six times.
Early morning, at around 9:17 a.m. EDT. SpaceX ignited the twice-flown rocket to propel the satellites to orbit but at around T-18 seconds before liftoff, the mission automatically aborted due to an anomalous ground-sensor reading. -"Standing down from today's Starlink mission due to an out of family ground system sensor reading; will announce a new target launch date once confirmed on the Range," SpaceX stated. The abort comes after the Starlink-13 mission has been previously delayed a couple of times due to unfavorable weather at the Florida space coast.
Standing down from today's Starlink mission due to an out of family ground system sensor reading; will announce a new target launch date once confirmed on the Range— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 1, 2020
During the mission's Live broadcast, Siva Bharadvaj, a spacecraft operator at SpaceX said -"The purpose of countdown is to help us catch potential issues prior to flight. There's a thousand ways that a launch can go wrong and only one way it can go right." Bharadvaj noted that the rocket is in fine condition. "Overall, the vehicle does appear to be in good health," he added. Watch the broadcast below.
Watch Falcon 9 launch 60 Starlink satellites https://t.co/GTuMee0u1e— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 1, 2020
SpaceX plans to launch 120 internet-beaming satellites per month. The company says it "is manufacturing 120 Starlink satellites each month, with spectrum efficient phased array antennas and safe space operations.” A Falcon 9 rocket can deploy 60 satellites per mission. Company officials state they target to offer service to northern portions of the United States and Canada once the constellation increases to 800 satellites to provide “moderate” broadband coverage. With approximately 708 Starlink satellites already in orbit SpaceX is very close to achieving the target.