SpaceX has launched 60 new Starlink broadband satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.
The Falcon 9 launch took place at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and transported the latest batch of satellites into low-orbit.
The booster used for the Falcon 9 has taken flight on four occasions in the past, twice in 2018 and twice last year. The most recent instance was in November 2019 for another Starlink mission.
SpaceX intends to successfully land, recover, refurbish, and attempt to use the booster for a fifth time and set a new record for reusage.
Starlink aims to offer global connectivity and this latest batch of satellites will bring its constellation up to 360. All going well, SpaceX hopes to offer commercial connectivity using Starlink later this year starting in North America.
Existing satellites are positioned much further away from Earth and offer lower speeds, capacity, and reliability.
As with the previous batch of 60 Starlink satellites, the new satellites make full use of the Ka- and Ku-bands to boost capacity. SpaceX's initial 60 satellites only supported Ku-band antennas.
More of the components in the satellites are designed to burn up after completing their missions to reduce concerns around space debris. SpaceX promised 95 percent of each satellite would burn up with their original design so this helps to reduce what's left in space even further.
Astronomers have complained that SpaceX's satellites are reflecting more sunlight than expected and may affect scientific observations. Some have been said to shine as bright as stars.
In June, the Royal Astronomical Society said the vast number of satellites proposed by the likes of SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb, and others “presents a challenge to ground-based astronomy.”
“The deployed networks could make it much harder to obtain images of the sky without the streaks associated with satellites, and thus compromise astronomical research,” the society said in a statement.
SpaceX has partnered with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and leading astronomy groups around the world to learn how changes can be made to reduce the impact of Starlink satellites.
Engineers at SpaceX are working to make the bases of future Starlink satellites black to help mitigate the reflection issue when observed from Earth.
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