KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – SpaceX on Thursday launched its own payload in the form of 60 Starlink satellites, marking the 12th round of internet-beaming satellites.
Liftoff happened at 8:46 a.m. from Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A.
Post-launch, SpaceX landed the rocket booster at sea and will fly it again, a normal occurrence for the reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
People gathered at Space View Park in Titusville to witness the liftoff in person Thursday morning, including Lauren Surratt, who drove from Orlando to see her first launch in person with her husband and 3-year-old daughter, Kara.
“It was very exciting and this was her first time being able to see as well,” Surratt said of her young daughter.
Witnessing a launch in person is a must, Surratt said, and offers a completely different experience.
“It’s one thing to read about stuff in books, but another thing to be able to see a rocket launch in person,” Surratt said. “It’s a really good way to get her excited about science.”
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/vgB0dnTWaP— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 3, 2020
The company plans to launch around 60 Starlink satellites every few weeks.
The launch pushed the Starlink constellation orbiting Earth toward 700 as SpaceX moves closer to creating a space-based internet, eventually using thousands of satellites. The benefit of providing web connectivity this way is that it can be accessible from all over the globe, even to remote areas.
However, the downside to so many satellites orbiting the planet is the impacts to astronomy observations and the general view of the night sky. SpaceX has been working with leading astronomy groups to mitigate these impacts and coming up with technology to make the satellites less reflective. The company recently added visors to the spacecraft that deploy to block sunlight.
This summer, a working group of astronomers presented their research on these large satellite constellations and how to best offset impacts to astronomical research. Their findings were published last week in a 22-page paper in hopes to provide a guide to other companies that plan to follow in SpaceX’s footsteps creating satellite constellations made up of thousands of spacecraft.
“SpaceX’s efforts can be considered as a model through which other operators might use to get involved in mitigating solutions so that broadband access is still available but not at the total expense of astronomical research,” said Connie Walker, with the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab and one of the paper’s co-authors.
Walker said the astronomy group is contacting other satellite companies to further their efforts to protect research and the view of the night sky. Amazon, OneWeb, Samsung and other companies also have plans to provide fast-speed internet through large fleets of satellites.
SpaceX plans to roll out internet service in the U.S. and Canada later this year, according to the Starlink website. Interested customers can sign up for alerts to learn when it will become available in their area.
Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
Launch pad: Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A
Payload: 60 Starlink satellites
Liftoff time: Sept. 3 at 8:46 a.m.
Landing: Yes, at sea
Weather: 80% Go