SpaceX it launched the second Falcon 9 rocket in just four days on Wednesday at 9:25 PM EDT (6:25 PM PDT). This one carries 60 more satellites for the Starlink constellation, bringing the total to current operation in orbit at 480. The launch leaves Florida, where SpaceX launches astronauts for the first time since Saturday for the final mission of the Crew Dragon display to fulfill the requirements of the human rating process in NASA’s Commercial Crew.
Today’s launch will not include any human passengers, but it will fly the next large batch of Starlink broadband internet satellites, as noted. These will join other Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit, forming part of a network that will eventually serve to provide high-bandwidth, reliable internet connectivity, especially in areas not present. where terrestrial networks are not present or do not offer high speed connections.
This launch includes a test of a new system called SpaceX designed to hopefully improve an issue that its satellites are capable of seeing at night from Earth. The Starlink satellite test, one of 60, has a visor system installed that can deploy it post-launch to block the day from reflecting the surfaces of its communications antennas. If it works as designed, it should greatly reduce the sunlight reflecting the satellite back to Earth, and then SpaceX will look to make it a standard part of Starlink̵7;s satellite design going forward.
Part of this launch included landing the first phase of the Falcon 9 rocket used for the launch, which had been dropped four times and recovered – making it a rocket that has now flown five missions, and is now holding it safe again with SpaceX’s landing barge shot into the ocean so that it can be used again.
SpaceX will also try to recover two aspiring halves that make up the nose cone protection used in launching the rocket top to protect the payload carried by Falcon 9. We will provide an update on how the attempt that will go away once SpaceX provides the details.
Tomorrow, June 4, actually marked the 10-year anniversary of the first flight of a Falcon 9 rocket – between this reusability record, and the more historic first-person spaceflight mission earlier this week, that’s the decade.