SpaceX has successfully launched the first orbital mission of 2020 deploying 60 Starlink satellites into a low Earth orbit. The Starlink constellation now includes over 170 satellites making SpaceX the largest satellite operator in the world.
The 60 Starlink satellites were launched aboard a flight-proven Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral’s Pad 40 at 2:19 UTC this morning (Jan. 7). Approximately one hour and two completed orbital burns later, the satellites were deployed into orbit at an altitude of 290 kilometers.
Ground crews will now complete individual data reviews on each of the 60 satellites. Once the review for each satellite is completed, its orbit will be raised utilizing the satellite’s onboard Hall-effect thrusters.
Prior to this morning’s launch, SpaceX had launched two previous 60-satellite Starlink missions. It has been reported that at least three of the 120 satellites are dead with an additional two actively preparing to de-orbit. As a result, with the launch of the 60 new satellites, the SpaceX Starlink constellation has grown to include a total of 175 active satellites.
SpaceX hopes to launch a total of 20 Starlink missions in 2020 adding a total of 1,200 new satellites.
The flight-proven Falcon 9 booster utilized for this morning’s launch has been identified as serial number B1049. It was the fourth mission for this particular booster having previously deployed the Telstar 18 VANTAGE communications satellite, 10 Iridium satellites, and a previous batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit.
The booster was successfully recovered for a fourth time touching down on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. It will now make its way back to port to be refurbished in preparation for a fifth launch.
SpaceX also attempted to recover a fairing half utilizing the Ms. Tree recovery vessel. However, towards the end of the mission live stream, Lauren Lyons, a Starlink satellite engineer at SpaceX who had been hosting the broadcast, revealed that the attempt had been unsuccessful.