SpaceX successfully launched its sixth batch of Starlink satellites using the Falcon 9 rocket. The launch goal is to carry a group of 60 Starlink broadband internet satellites to their low earth orbit. This will increase the total Starlink constellation size to 360.
SpaceX’s first attempt at the launch of its latest Starlink batch was scheduled for Sunday, March 15th. But due to an engine issue, the mission was auto-aborted just before liftoff. Hence the launch was rescheduled to today March 18th, with a take-off time of 8:16 AM EDT.
The launch, as usual, took place at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The re-usage of Falcon 9 by SpaceX carries an extra significance. It is for the fifth time it will be used to launch an orbital mission.
Elon Musk has been aggressive in his approach to reducing the cost of spaceflight by reusing space crafts. He continues to lead by example. SpaceX has positioned a drone ship to land the Falcon 9 first stage for the 5th time. This will be a new world-record improving on its previous count of four.
SpaceX will also attempt to collect the two halves of payload fairing so that they can be refurbished and re-used just like the rocket. It has strategically placed two net-equipped boats to catch these payload fairings.
With the constellation size up to 360, SpaceX plans to start the commercial operation of the Starlink satellite constellation in 2020. If their set-up is complete the company promises to deliver faster broadband internet to North America taking advantage of its satellites positioned nearer to the earth.
The existing internet is provided by geosynchronous satellites that are further away from the earth. SpaceX aims to launch more satellites as part of its Starlink mission in the future. The launch will be broadcasted live.