SpaceX has this morning completed the first successful launch and delivery of 60 small Starlink Satellites, which are Low Earth Orbit (LEO) dwelling spacecraft that could in theory deliver "ultrafast broadband" speeds of up to 1Gbps and low latency times of around 25ms (milliseconds) around the world.
An initial attempt to launch the Starlink satellites on May 15 was called off due to high winds aloft. Then, on Thursday, a requirement to update the Starlink software delayed the launch into next week.
Starlink also has a lot of dollars-and-cents significance for SpaceX.
In 2017, he filed applications for Starlink, which was described as a low-priced, satellite-based broadband system that can provide internet access across the world. For now, Starlink is only authorized for US operations.
Each Starlink satellite weighs around 500 pounds.
Musk has said he sees the new Starlink venture as an important new revenue stream for his California-based Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, whose launch service income he expects to top out at around $3 billion a year.
SpaceX now plans to build out the 550 km shell first, and then move on to deployment of the other two orbital altitude locations. Global coverage would be possible with 1,000 to 2,000 satellites, he said.
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According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the Starlink mission is SpaceX's heaviest load. If SpaceX were to sacrifice recovery and reuse of the first stage of the Falcon 9, they could have added more Starlinks into the payload fairing. In February, OneWeb - a global communications company based out of United Kingdom - launched 6 satellites to achieve a similar goal.
That's slightly higher than the International Space Station, but well below the majority of terrestrial satellites, the highest of which sit in a geostationary orbit of 22,400 miles (36,000 kilometers). SpaceX will attempt to recover Falcon 9's first stage on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.
A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellites blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 10:30 p.m. local time (0230 GMT Friday), clearing a key hurdle for a business venture that Musk hopes will generate much-needed cash for his larger ambitions in space.
From the pad @NASASpaceflight update.
In fact, OneWeb has already launched several of its internet satellites from French Guiana into space back in February.
Following stage separation, the single-engine Merlin Vac second stage will take the first batch of Starlinks onward to orbit. They will then all use their onboard propulsion systems to raise their orbits to the operational 550 km altitude.