SpaceX launches another batch of Starlink satellites, misses booster landing

Users can now take part in Starlink Beta program

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX plans to continue weekly launches of 60 Starlink satellites at a time with the latest batch launching Monday night.

A Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base Monday night carrying more Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit.

[RELATED COVERAGE: New internet option emerges as SpaceX expands Starlink service to more customers | SpaceX to launch NASA’s lunar Gateway on Falcon Heavy]

However, about 8 minutes after launch, the Falcon 9 booster missed its landing opportunity on a drone ship at sea, breaking SpaceX’s successful landing streak.

A livestream shot of the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship picked up a bright flash but the booster never appeared in the frame.

“We did get a little bright glow but no longer see a flame there,” SpaceX lead manufacturing engineer Jessica Anderson said during the broadcast. “And it does look like we did not land our booster on Of Course I Still Love You tonight. It is unfortunate that we did not recover this booster but our second stage is still on a nominal trajectory.”

If the landing had gone well it would have marked the sixth for this booster.

Up range, another Falcon 9 was scheduled to liftoff in the early hours of Wednesday at 12:55 a.m. from Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A, also with about 60 Starlink satellites. However, the launch is no longer listed on FAA flight restrictions or on the 45th Space Wing website.

The launch from KSC was previously delayed several times last week. The company said in a tweet that it needed “additional inspections before flying one of our fleet-leading boosters.”

It’s unclear what caused the latest delay.

Combined, the launches will send the Starlink constellation above 1,000 orbiting the Earth. The Starlink constellation is part of CEO Elon Musk’s plan to create a space-based internet using a network of, eventually, 42,000 satellites. In the past several weeks, the company has expanded its Beta testing of the internet service to include more than 10,000 customers.

Potential customers can visit Starlink.com and request a $499 Starlink kit with a $99 per month service. The kit includes a Wi-Fi router and dish. However, it depends on where a customer lives as to when their kit and service will begin, according to SpaceX. For an address in Orlando, the estimate given is mid to late 2021.

Laura Forczyk, the owner of space consulting company Astralytical said outside of signing up more customers, the company must also prove to the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates broadband usage for satellites, it can perform, providing the services SpaceX says it will with the Starlink constellation.

“The FCC has granted SpaceX the ability to use the certain broadband that they’ve given them, if they have success with Starlink with a certain number of customers and a certain number of satellites launched over a certain period of time,” Forcyk told News 6.

SpaceX is attempting to succeed where other companies have failed. Musk said in a tweet this week Starlink could be the first.

“SpaceX needs to pass through a deep chasm of negative cash flow over the next year or so to make Starlink financially viable,” the CEO tweeted. “Every new satellite constellation in history has gone bankrupt. We hope to be the first that does not.”

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