SpaceX launches Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral

Muriel Hammond
May 25, 2019

The recycled Falcon rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, late Thursday local time.

Just as the second stage engine cut-off occurred, the stage one booster successfully landed on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You off the coast of Cape Canavarel, the third such recovery for this particular booster rocket, demonstrating the effectiveness of rocket reusability.

SpaceX set a company record a year ago with 21 launches for customers.

This launch will be the first of several Starlink missions.

The satellites will then use onboard propulsion to reach an operational altitude of 550 km, SpaceX said.

SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon Musk told reporters before the first launch try last week that the company "does not need anywhere near 10,000 satellites to be effective".

Those satellites are created to form the initial phase a planned constellation capable of beaming signals for high-speed internet service from space to paying customers around the globe. However, the precedent for such a service goes back much farther.

A prototype Starlink satellite.

According to SpaceX, the satellites are capable of tracking on-orbit debris to autonomously avoid collisions and 95% of their components will be burnt in Earth's atmosphere at the end of their life cycles.

SpaceX has not announced any customers for the Starlink service.

In each network, the tiny satellites orbit closer to Earth than traditional communications satellites, a technological shift made possible by advances in laser technology and computer chips. However, due to pressure caused by competition in the market, SpaceX chose to expedite things and begin launching the first batch to a lower altitude of 550 kilometers (340 mi).

SpaceX is not the only company eager to get into satellite broadband business. The company aims to complete the satellite constellation by mid-2020s. Following Thursday's launch, SpaceX says it has six others planned for this year, while it will ramp things up and launch a total of 720 across 2020. Now for the moment of truth: The company will try to deploy the entire batch of satellites safely into orbit.

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