On Wednesday afternoon, SpaceX launched 60 additional Starlink broadband communications satellites from Florida.
At 2:59 p.m. EDT, the Falcon 9 rocket blasted up from Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station near Kennedy Space Center into a warm, partly overcast sky.
“What a beautiful day for a rocket launch as you can see, Falcon 9 has successfully lifted off from pad 40 … carrying our stack of 60 Starlink satellites to orbit,” said Youmei Zhou, a SpaceX engineer, during the launch’s live webcast.
The satellites reached their intended orbit a little over an hour after launch. The company also notched its 85th successful landing of a first-stage booster for the rocket, after it landed on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX has launched hundreds of Starlink satellites just this year, and the constellation in orbit is now over 1,600 spacecraft.
SpaceX reuses the boosters many times in an effort to lower the cost of launches.
The halves of SpaceX’s nose cone, or fairing, also were used previously, and the company planned to attempt recovery of those from the ocean after launch.
“Today’s flight marks the 40th time SpaceX has reflown a fairing, which we’ve been doing since November 2019,” said Shiva Bharadvaj, another SpaceX engineer.
All but 10 of the satellites launched so far have gone to an orbit of about 340 miles above the Earth, said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts who tracks satellites.
“I would expect them to start launching to the remaining shells [orbits] soon,” McDowell said in an email on Tuesday.
Starlink service, which costs $99 a month after the $499 purchase of hardware, is still in a test phase in limited nations in Australia and the Northern Hemisphere. But the company says it has over half a million deposits or orders for service.
SpaceX has faced opposition from competing satellite companies, including a recent request from California-based Viasat to have the Federal Communication Commission halt Starlink launches while it sues to force SpaceX to complete a lengthy environmental review of Starlink satellites.