SpaceX conducted a successful rocket launch on Saturday that put 52 new Starlink satellites in orbit along with a pair of rideshare payloads. SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:56 PM EDT. The Falcon 9 rocket used for the launch flew for its eighth time and successfully landed on a drone ship at sea to be refurbished and reused again in the future.
One of the interesting things about this particular Falcon 9 is that it was the same rocket used to put NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken onto the ISS last year. SpaceX has no intentions of slowing down its launch of Starlink satellites as the company aims to have 40,000 satellites in orbit transmitting broadband Internet connectivity back to Earth.
Building up such a massive constellation of satellites isn’t going to happen quickly. SpaceX currently has a deadline in mid-2027. Currently, Starlink Internet service is in beta and has about 10,000 customers. SpaceX has warned those customers from the get-go that as a beta service, their connectivity speeds could slow, and the service could go down.
The successful launch marked the 15th Starlink launch of 2021. About nine minutes after liftoff, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket returned to Earth, landing on a SpaceX drone ship in the ocean called “Of Course I Still Love You.”
Ultimately, Starlink Internet service will be available worldwide, and SpaceX has been in discussions with officials in England about using Starlink to service rural areas of the country under the British “Project Gigabit” plan. Currently, most of the beta customers for Starlink are in the northern US.