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SpaceX launches Starlink mission from Florida

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SpaceX launches Starlink mission from Florida
SpaceX launches its sixth Starlink cluster from Florida on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of SpaceX

ORLANDO, Fla., March 18 (UPI) -- SpaceX successfully launched its sixth Starlink satellite cluster from Florida at 8:16 a.m. Wednesday, using a first-stage booster for the fifth time.

The company had hoped to land the first-stage booster for the rocket on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean, but SpaceX said the booster failed to make the landing. SpaceX has been recovering boosters by flying them back to Earth since December 2015.

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Wednesday's launch also used a recovered fairing, or half of the rocket's nosecone.

SpaceX announced via live broadcast during the launch the results of an experiment to make the satellites less visible from the ground. A satellite now in orbit has a non-reflective coating that makes it notably less visible, but the company is embarking on a new experiment to install a sunshade on a satellite for an upcoming launch.

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In Wednesday's launch, a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off into blue skies streaked with thin clouds from the company's Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Having been used four times before, the normally white booster was dark with soot.

The mission carried 60 Starlink satellites, putting the total in orbit at 362, by far the largest known satellite constellation.

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The space firm previously launched 60 Starlink satellites at a time in May, November, on Jan. 6 and 29 and Feb. 17, with two test satellites launched before that.

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Starlink satellites are roughly the size of a large dinner table, each weighing over 500 pounds.. The company intends ultimately to launch thousands of satellites to beam broadband around the globe, providing high-speed Internet everywhere, even in extreme weather or aboard high-speed jets.

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