A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fired 60 more Starlink relay satellites into orbit Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center along with another set awaiting launch Wednesday from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In Sunday’s flight, SpaceX today launched 835 Starlinks on a fast-growing global network that will eventually feature thousands of commercial broadband beacons delivering high-speed internet at any point on Earth. To achieve that goal, the company plans to launch at least 120 new Starlink per month.
Starlink’s latest mission, 14th on SpaceX, began at 8:26 a.m. EDT when the first nine stages of the Falcon 9 engine ignited a blast of fire, pushing the thin rocket away. on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at a height of 1.7 million pounds of thrust.
Arriving at the sixth flight, the first stage pushed the rocket out of the dense lower atmosphere and then fell and headed for a dronehip landing. Touchdown marked the 62 successful booster recovery since December 2015, 42nd at sea.
Less than a minute after the separation on stage, the two halves of rocket’s cone faing, both veterans of the previous two missions, fell for parachute descents to retrieve the net aboard the waiting recovery ships. Both were successfully recovered, though one seemed to slip through its netting, possibly hitting the deck of its ship.
In the meantime, the second phase, was pressed in advance to orbit and after two explosions of the Merlin engine rated vacuum, all 60 Starlinks were released to fly on their own about an hour after the lift.
The launch on Sunday marked SpaceX’s second Falcon 9 flight since October 2 when a last-second abortion blocked the launch of a Space Force Global Positioning System navigation satellite. That flight will remain in hold as company engineers assess an apparent issue with turbopump engine machinery.
SpaceX did not provide any details about how the engines were used on Sunday and those used during the Starlink flight on October 18 may differ from those used for GPS missions.
Also, there is no news from SpaceX or NASA if the engine issue posed any threat to the planned launch of four astronauts on the International Space Station aboard the Falcon 9 next month.
Launching on Sunday is the 18th Falcon 9 flight so far this year, the 95th since the rocket debuted in 2010, the 98th counting three triple-core Falcon Heavy launches. The Falcon 9 suffered two devastating failures, one in flight and one while attempting pre-launch.