SpaceX has launched the first 60 satellites of the company’s Starlink constellation aboard a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket. Once operational, the Starlink constellation will feature nearly 12,000 satellites supplying global low-cost broadband internet.
The Falcon 9 carrying the 60 Starlink satellites launched from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 at 02:30 UTC this morning. Following a successful launch, the rocket’s first stage booster was successfully recovered touching down on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship 9 minutes after liftoff. The booster used for the mission has now been recovered three times having previously supported the launch of the Iridium NEXT-8 and Telstar 18V/Apstar-5C missions.
A further 53 minutes after first stage booster recovery, all 60 Starlink satellites were released at once. In addition to the unusual mass deployment, the individual satellites also did not have individual deployment mechanisms. Instead, the stage was spun just prior to deployment allowing inertia to fan the satellites out like a deck of cards. Once the satellites have separated sufficiently, operators will fire the satellites krypton-gas-powered Hall thrusters allowing each to be placed into a designated orbit.
Following the chaotic-looking deployment, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk confirmed that signals from all 60 satellites had been acquired. The next step is the deployment of each satellite’s solar array. Once that is completed, operators at the company’s satellite development facility in Redmond will begin to verify the functionality and system health of each satellite.