A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 60 more Starlink internet relay satellites on Saturday, boosting the total number launched to date to 895 as the company builds out aof thousands designed to provide global high-speed broadband service.
Running two days late because of an on-board camera issue, the Falcon 9's twice-flown first stage thundered to life at 11:31 a.m. EDT, pushing the 229-foot-tall rocket away from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was the California rocket builder's 19th launch so far this year and its 15th Starlink flight.
The climb out of the lower atmosphere went smoothly and, as usual for SpaceX, the Falcon 9's first stage flew itself back to landing on an off-shore drone ship. After two second stage engine firings, all 60 Starlink satellites were released to fly on their own, chalking up the company's 95th successful Falcon 9 flight and 100th overall.
SpaceX's Starlink operation has regulatory approval to launch more than 12,000 of the small satellites in multiple orbital planes, providing commercial users with line-of-sight access to space-based broadband signals from any point on Earth. The company already is testing the service in selected areas.
With Saturday's launch, SpaceX has put 895 Starlinks into orbit, 180 of them — more satellites than any other company owns — in less than three weeks.
Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, a noted spaceflight analyst, reports 53 Starlinks have been deliberately deorbited to date, two re-entered on their own after failures and another 20 no longer appear to be maneuvering. Including the 60 launched Saturday, that leaves some 820 presumably operational Starlinks in orbit.