A time exposure captures the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it launched the first 60 of the company's Starlink Satellites at 10:30 p.m. Thursday from Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Photo by Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell/UPI | License Photo
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., May 23 (UPI) -- SpaceX launched its first 60 Starlink satellites from Florida on Thursday night. Liftoff was at 10:30 p.m. in favorable weather conditions after two delays a week earlier due to upper-level winds.
The Starlink payload rode aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It reached low-Earth orbit where the satellites were to be distributed -- "like a deck of cards," SpaceX founder Elon Musk said. They will circle the earth about 550 kilometers or 341 miles above the surface.
It is the heaviest payload the Falcon rocket has ever carried. The company successfully landed the rocket's first stage booster on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean.
A little over an hour after launch, the satellites separated and fanned out as planned. SpaceX cameras in space showed a bright reflection from the sun glinting off the 60 units as they moved away from each other.
The Starlink launch is aimed at establishing SpaceX's own high-speed Internet satellite network.
With a new service launching for the first time, Musk had tweeted earlier, "Much will likely go wrong."
The company is experimenting with two ways to deploy the solar arrays and with the thrusters on each unit, so it was monitoring those issues after launch.
SpaceX is one of several big players trying to start new networks that use thousands of non-geostationary satellites to offer high-speed Internet and other types of communication around the globe. The focus is on boosting Internet access to rural areas first.
Others companies working on large new constellations include OneWeb, which launched its first six satellites in February, and Telesat.