On Monday, 11 November 2019, the tech giant SpaceX had launched 60 mini flat-panel satellites – weighing only 260 kilograms each – nestled in a Falcon 9 rocket and designed as part of the company’s global internet project.
The plan is to eventually send thousands of identical satellites – forming a network called Starlink – into orbit, thereby ensuring high-speed internet connection around the world.
According to Elon Musk – the company’s founder and chief executive – service will become available next year in the northern U.S. and Canada, with global coverage for populated areas to come online after 24 launches.
With the second batch now in orbit (the first 60 satellites were already blasted off into space in May), the company plans to keep repeating the process every two weeks, reaching nearly 12,000 units by the mid-2020s, with a possible extension to 42,000 satellites in the future.
The flight also marked the fourth flight of SpaceX’s re-usable booster, which means the company will be able to launch six more batches of the satellites without building any additional first-stage units (Falcon 9 consists of two stages).
Although the launch went smoothly overall, there was, unfortunately, a problem with one of the 60 satellites that could prevent it from moving beyond its initial 280 kilometer-high orbit, in which case it will be commanded to re-enter and burn up in the atmosphere.
With the issue reported back in September – where a Starlink satellite came dangerously close to one the ESA’s own – now addressed, the satellites should be perfectly capable of avoiding space junk using their on-board navigation systems.
Musk hopes that revenue generated from the Starlink network will help him achieve the company’s overarching project, namely – travelling to Mars.