On Wednesday, March 24, at 4:28 a.m. SpaceX launched 60 new satellites as a part of its Starlink project. The satellites were deployed at 5:13 a.m. bringing the total to 240 this month alone.
Starlink is the latest project the company has taken on and its goal is to provide high-speed, low latency broadband internet worldwide. According to Starlink’s website, the Starlink product is ideal for rural and remote communities which will allow areas of the world where connectivity is a challenge to connect to the web. Currently, Starlink is not fully operational, but in its beta-testing phase. Those who live in areas where there is coverage can sign up for the Starlink modem and satellite kit to be shipped to them. The satellite is meant for users to set up on their own and comes with everything necessary for installation. The hardware alone costs $499 with separate fees for service, shipping and handling and taxes.
Wednesday’s launch gets the company one step closer to its dream. According to Tech Crunch, this launch used a Falcon 9—a reusable, two-stage rocket designed by SpaceX—that has been used for five previous launches, in addition to a cargo fairing cover made of two re-used halves from past flights. This is the fourth launch they have had from Cape Canaveral this month, with other launches having gone up March 14, March 11 and March 4—each with 60 satellites in tow. This makes for the 25th launch of satellites in order to make Starlink fully operational. After launch and breaking through the cloud layer, the rocket shed its first booster and ignited its second-stage engine in order to continue its journey. The booster, meanwhile, landed on a SpaceX drone ship about 400 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral. The platform then made its way back to the port to be refurbished and reused on a future flight. The cargo fairing cover was parachuted into the Atlantic where it will see a similar fate—refurbishment and plans to reuse.
The launch caused some concern on the West Coast, however. Many people reported seeing flying debris in the sky and took to Twitter to ask NASA what was going on. Eventually, it was determined to be debris from the rockets sent up on March 4 as it reentered the atmosphere.
SpaceX’s website gave a replay of the launch for those who were interested. In addition to a diagram showing the path of the rocket after launch, the website also has a minute-by-minute replay of the event starting from loading to deployment. There is also an accompanying video. The video, which is an hour and 23 minutes long, takes viewers through the whole process with the help of a few more diagrams. The video begins with the loading of the rocket and the powering up—filmed from several yards away. It then switches to a camera attached to the rocket so that viewers can watch as it takes off and enters space. Once take-off is initiated, several diagrams and stats show up intermittently to show the speed of Falcon 9, as well as its course.