SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Satellites as Part of Satellite Internet Constellation

60 Starlink satellites begin to separate after deployment from the Falcon 9 second stage. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral on Thursday evening, kicking off an ambitious program to provide global broadband services from space.

The satellites separated as a group from the second stage of the booster one hour and two minutes after the on-time launch at 10:30 p.m. EDT. Video from an on-board camera showed the satellites slowly separating from each other at an altitude of 440 km before SpaceX ended the webcast.

SpaceX has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to launch nearly 12,000 satellites to provide global communications services. Founder Elon Musk has said the constellation will be economically viable when 1,000 satellites are operational.

SpaceX designed Starlink to connect end users with low latency, high bandwidth broadband services. With a flat-panel design featuring multiple high-throughput antennas and a single solar array, each Starlink satellite weighs approximately 227 kg, allowing SpaceX to maximize mass production and take full advantage of Falcon 9’s launch capabilities.

To adjust position on orbit, maintain intended altitude, and deorbit, Starlink satellites feature Hall thrusters powered by krypton. Designed and built upon the heritage of Dragon, each spacecraft is equipped with a Startracker navigation system that allows SpaceX to point the satellites with precision.

The Falcon 9’s first stage successfully landed on SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the third launch for the stage, which previously supported the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018 and the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019.