SpaceX, the private space company founded by Elon Musk, has successfully launched 21 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Monday, September 25, 2023. The launch was part of the company’s ambitious plan to provide global broadband internet service using a constellation of thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit.
Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 3:23 a.m. EDT
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4E at 3:23 a.m. EDT (0723 GMT; 12:23 a.m. local California time), carrying 21 Starlink satellites in its payload fairing. The rocket’s first stage, making its sixth flight, separated from the second stage about two and a half minutes after liftoff and performed a boost-back burn to return to Earth. It landed on a SpaceX drone ship named “Of Course I Still Love You” stationed about 400 miles (644 km) downrange in the Pacific Ocean, marking the 99th successful landing of a Falcon 9 booster.
Starlink satellites deploy into orbit after an hour
The second stage of the Falcon 9 continued its ascent and reached a parking orbit about nine minutes after liftoff. It then coasted for about 53 minutes before reigniting its engine for a short burn to raise its orbit. The 21 Starlink satellites, each weighing about 570 pounds (260 kg), were then released from the second stage into a 185 by 178 mile (297 by 286 km) orbit, inclined at 53 degrees to the equator. The satellites will use their onboard thrusters to raise their orbits to about 340 miles (550 km) and join the existing Starlink constellation.
Starlink aims to provide high-speed internet from space
Starlink is SpaceX’s internet megaconstellation project that aims to provide high-speed, low-latency and affordable broadband internet service to anyone, anywhere in the world. The company has launched more than 5,150 satellites since 2019, of which about 4,800 are operational and 4,776 appear to be working normally, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who maintains a spaceflight database. SpaceX plans to launch thousands more satellites in the coming years to expand its coverage and capacity.
SpaceX recently announced that it had signed up over two million subscribers in more than 60 countries for its Starlink internet service, which offers speeds of up to 150 megabits per second and latency of around 20 to 40 milliseconds. The company is also working on improving its user terminals, which are small dishes that connect to the satellites, and reducing its costs and environmental impact. SpaceX has also partnered with several organizations, such as schools, hospitals, governments and emergency responders, to provide Starlink internet access in remote and underserved areas.