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Elon Musk's SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites from Florida

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying 60 Starline communications satellites. Photo by Joe Marinol/UPI
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying 60 Starline communications satellites. Photo by Joe Marinol/UPI | License Photo

ORLANDO, Fla., April 22 (UPI) -- Elon Musk's SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites on time at 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday into a clear blue sky from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It was the seventh such launch for SpaceX's communications satellite network, which is the largest constellation in history. The company has launched 422 of the spacecraft in a little over a year.

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The space company also landed the mission's first-stage booster on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean minutes after liftoff -- the fourth landing for that booster.

The rocket was launched from historic Launch Complex 39A, from which Apollo moon missions and space shuttles lifted off. SpaceX leases the complex from NASA.

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The space firm previously launched 60 Starlink satellites at a time in May, November, on Jan. 6 and 29, Feb. 17, and March 18, with two test satellites launched before that.

The launch on Wednesday took place during restrictions on space center access due to the coronavirus pandemic, and as SpaceX prepares for a late May launch of the first crewed flight of NASA astronauts from U.S. soil since 2011.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are scheduled to be the first to ride in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. Liftoff for that mission is also planned at Complex 39A.

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SpaceX 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.

Musk commented Wednesday on Twitter about the visibility of the satellites from the ground, and how the company is trying to address that problem. Astronomers have complained that the satellites interfere with ground-based observations of space.

He said the company is making sunshades for future satellites that are "made of a special dark foam that's extremely radio transparent, so as not to affect the phased array antennas."

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Starlink satellites orbit at a height of about 340 miles above the Earth. By comparison, the Kármán line that defines space is 62 miles high, and the International Space Station is more than 250 miles high.

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