CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. – SpaceX successfully launched Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral Saturday morning, one day after it was scrubbed due to weather.
A Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 7:19 a.m. EST and deployed the satellites about 16 minutes after launch.
The launch marked SpaceX’s first East Coast launch with Starlink internet satellites since June.
The last SpaceX launch from Florida to include the satellites was the Transporter-2 rideshare mission, carrying only three Starlink units among a payload of 88 satellites in total. By contrast, Saturday’s mission is solely intended to bear Starlink satellites, with 53 units set to join the internet constellation of more than 1,600 so far.
Saturday’s mission, delayed from mid-August, will follow Wednesday’s successful Crew-3 launch to the International Space Station from nearby Kennedy Space Center.
Last night's launch of Crew-3 as seen from SLC-40. Falcon 9 completed a static fire test this morning ahead of tomorrow’s targeted launch of 53 Starlink satellites to orbit. Weather is 60% favorable for liftoff pic.twitter.com/GEToXihGJ1— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2021
These Starlink satellites — as well as the previous three launched from Florida — possess new laser inter-satellite linking technology, enabling them to transmit data to one another without needing ground stations. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in January that all Starlink satellites launched in 2022 and onwards would use the feature, making it possible to beam internet to remote areas of the world without ground stations, such as in the North or South poles.
In fact, the time it’s taken to develop and add the new technology to these internet satellites is why we haven’t seen a Starlink launch lately, according to SpaceX president and CEO Gwynne Shotwell.
“We’re flying a number of laser terminals right now in space, and we’re working on probably our third generation,” Shotwell said in September. “That’s why we haven’t flown Starlinks for six or eight weeks, because we wanted the next set to have the laser terminals.”
In general, SpaceX intends to launch Starlink satellites more regularly now that they’re outfitted with the lasers, with the next mission from Florida tentatively scheduled for January 2022.