SpaceX performed a successful launch in the early hours of the morning today, where it placed another 60 Starlink satellites into orbit to provide broadband Internet service. The satellites were put into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, and the liftoff happened at the Kennedy Space Center at 8:25 Eastern Time. The launch marks the 13th Falcon 9 Starlink mission.
SpaceX is continuing the first phase of its deployment, where it intends to set up an initial operating capability to roll out its broadband service. The first phase of the project requires at least 1440 satellites to be placed into orbit. With the 60 additional satellites now in orbit, there are currently 835 Starlink satellites circling the Earth.
The ultimate goal of Starlink is to blanket the entire globe with broadband service particularly focusing on rural areas where broadband is unavailable. Ultimately, the company intends to put up to 30,000 satellites into low Earth orbit and will replace failed satellites as needed. Placing the satellites into low Earth orbit is particularly important because it helps eliminate the latency that hinders current satellite-based broadband systems.
Current satellite broadband systems use satellites that are in geostationary orbit. SpaceX has said that its factory can produce 120 satellites per month. SpaceX has been placing satellites in orbit since the end of last year and has run afoul of some astronomers.
The satellites are much brighter than expected, and astronomers fear they will hinder Earth-based telescopes from making observations. The company has been putting the satellites currently in orbit to work. First responders fighting wildfires in Washington State were given Starlink terminals to enable communications. Teams using the devices said it’s more reliable than other tactical communication systems they have used in the past.