HAWTHORNE — After a string of last-minute delays and scrubbed missions, Hawthorne-based SpaceX successfully launched 60 internet satellites into orbit Tuesday from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The launch of the Starlink satellites had been repeatedly delayed, including once last week when a ground sensor reading forced the mission to be scrubbed just 18 seconds before liftoff.
The mission was then pushed to Monday morning, but it was scrubbed due to bad weather over Cape Canaveral. SpaceX made multiple attempts to launch the 60 Starlink satellites into orbit in mid-September, but the missions were delayed due to bad weather on the East Coast generated by Hurricane Sally.
Tuesday morning’s launch went off without a hitch, with the rocket lifting off around 4:30 a.m. California time, successfully deploying the satellites as part of a growing broadband internet array. The launch was the 13th Starlink deployment mission for SpaceX, which now has an estimated 770 of the satellites in orbit.
Initial plans for the Starlink array call for as many as 12,000 satellites, with the ultimate array topping 40,000.
The Starlink system is designed to provide low-cost internet access in traditionally underserved areas around the world. The service is already being tested by some SpaceX employees, with public beta testing anticipated to begin later this year.
SpaceX successfully recovered the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket used in Tuesday’s mission by landing it on a drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket used for the satellite launch had flown two previous missions for SpaceX, including its historic launch earlier this year of two astronauts to the International Space Station.
Tuesday’s launch marked the 43rd time SpaceX has reused a rocket booster.
The company also successfully recovered one half of the rocket fairing, or nosecone, by using a separate ship equipped with a large net.
SpaceX still has not set a new launch date for another much-delayed mission, the launch of a U.S. Space Force GPS satellite. The launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle 04 had been most recently set for last Friday evening, but it was scrubbed just two seconds before liftoff.
The launch was originally planned last Wednesday, but it was delayed to make way for a United Launch Alliance mission carrying a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office set for that same day. That ULA launch also wound up being postponed due to an engine-ignition failure.
Source: Orange County Register