SpaceX launches first satellites for Musk's Starlink internet service

Katie Ramirez
May 24, 2019

It was the third attempt by SpaceX to launch the Falcon 9 rocket carrying its first 60 Starlink satellites.

The Falcon 9 rocket launched from the company's pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Equipped with high-speed satellite-to-satellite communications links, the eventual network is created to seamlessly hand off internet traffic as required to provide uninterrupted access.

To carry out this plan, Musk said SpaceX will have to launch at least 400 satellites to be able to have "minor" internet coverage and at least 800 satellites for "moderate" coverage.

Around an hour and two minutes after takeoff, the payload of Starlink satellites were successfully deployed at an altitude of 440 km above Earth, where they slowly separated from each other as they drifted into space. On 16 May SpaceX delayed the launch due to excess upper-level winds.

The first part of SpaceX's ambitious satellite internet network is in orbit.

"SpaceX expects to encounter issues along the way, but our learnings here are key to developing an affordable and reliable broadband service in the future", according to the company. During a press event on May 15, Musk said "There is a lot of new technology, so it's possible that some of these satellites may not work" and suggested there is a "small possibility that all of these satellites will not work".

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SpaceX has publicly shared details about its Starlink constellation programs along with updated targets for its commercial services, satellite design and reason behind its thought process of having a constellation of 12000 satellites which is six times the number of satellites that are already in orbit.

While this is the first non-test launch, the satellites aren't as feature-rich as the final production version the company intends to ship.

Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

The income from Starlink is meant to help fund advanced development of Starship, the super-heavy-lift launch system that Musk intends to use to send a million settlers to Mars in the decades ahead.

With each Starlink satellite weighing in at 227 kg (500.5 lb), the total payload mass from just the Starlinks, not counting the adapter and deployment mechanisms, comes in at an impressive 13,620 kg (30,027 lb). SpaceX will attempt to recover Falcon 9's first stage on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

After failing to launch Starlink satellites on Wednesday, SpaceX is looking to have another crack at sending its internet satellites into space this week.

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