SpaceX Starlink launch to reuse rocket nose cone for first time

Ruben Fields
November 11, 2019

SpaceX is targeting Monday, November 11 at 9:56 a.m. EST, 14:56 UTC, for launch of 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Starlink is SpaceX's entry into a new industry, an effort to provide high-speed reliable internet service through a network of hundreds of satellites in low-earth orbit.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket rises from its launch pad, sending 60 satellites into orbit. The goal is to operate a global constellation that provides connectivity via orbital satellites handing off connections to one another as they circle the globe - a different approach from current geostationary satellite connectivity, in which few large satellites essentially sit over one part of the Earth and provide connections just to that region. This fairing was flown during the Falcon Heavy Arabsat-6A mission that happened in April. Lauren Lyons, an engineer on SpaceX's Starlink team, said during the launch webcast that the satellites have 400% more throughput, can generate twice as many phased array broadband beams, and sport a new Ka-band antenna system.

Of the 60 Starlink satellites SpaceX launched in May, three lost contact and two were selected for intentional de-orbiting. SpaceX deployed a first round of Starlink satellites in May. On the eve of the launch, SpaceX said one of the satellites may not be able to raise its orbit - but the satellites are created to burn up completely in the atmosphere once their orbits decay. Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO, said in May that Starlink would be "economically viable" at 1,000 satellites, with additional spacecraft supporting customer demand.

The rocket's first stage booster will target a landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

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The same Falcon 9 has been launched and landed for the fourth time. The rocket's second stage is single-use.

SpaceX called off an attempt to use two vessels to catch the fairing - the nose cone that protects the payload - out of concern about sea conditions. Musk has also tweeted through the satellites.

"We still have a ways to go from tweets to 4K cat videos, but we are on our way", Lyons said.

SpaceX is among several companies interested in providing broadband internet coverage worldwide, especially in areas where it costs too much or is unreliable.

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