SpaceX successfully launched 60 more Starlink satellites into orbit on Wednesday, March 18, bringing its total number of satellites in orbit up to nearly 360.
The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the satellites, designed to beam high-speed internet to Earth, took place at 8.16 A.M. Eastern Time from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The launch had been previously postponed on Sunday in a last-second abort.
About nine minutes after the launch, the first stage of the booster was supposed to land on the company’s droneship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean. However, SpaceX said during a live stream that the landing had not been successful, without providing further details.
This mission marks the first time SpaceX has flown a first stage booster five times, with the booster’s four previous missions occurring in 2018 and 2019, including the second Starlink mission in November 2019. This was also the first Starlink launch from the historic Launch Complex 39A at Cape Canaveral.
SpaceX also noted that the payload fairing on the rocket had also been reused. It had previously flown on the first Starlink launch back in May 2019, before descending to Earth via parachute and being recovered in the ocean by recovery vessels.
Following the launch the 60 Starlink satellites, each weighing about 260 kilograms, were placed into an orbit about 290 kilometers above Earth. Here each of the satellites will have its systems checked, before onboard ion thrusters raise the satellites to their operational orbits of 550 kilometers within a few months.
SpaceX continues to rapidly grow its Starlink constellation. In total the company is planning to launch 1,500 satellites this year, providing high-speed internet to users in the US and Canada. Ultimately the company plans to launch up to 42,000 satellites.