SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched 60 new Starlink satellites early Thursday morning.
The Falcon 9 thruster lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:24 a.m. ET, just hours after the company’s Starship prototype rocket exploded after performing a high-altitude test flight in Texas on Wednesday .
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The Falcon 9 rocket booster has returned to Earth and stuck landing about eight and a half minutes later aboard SpaceX’s “Sure, I Still Love You” drone, which floats a few hundred miles in the Atlantic Ocean.
“This will mark our 75th successful recovery of an orbital-class rocket and the eighth recovery of this particular thruster,” Youmei Zhou, SpaceX Dragon propulsion engineer, told a launch livestream.
Thursday launch also marked the 109th flight in total for SpaceX’s flagship rocket, according to Space.com.
The deployment of the 60 satellites took place just over an hour after launch.
The much-anticipated launch had already been postponed three times this week, interrupted by both an automatic trigger and bad weather conditions, NASASpacelight.com reported Thursday.
This is the company’s sixth mission this year and its 20th Starlink mission.
There are already more than 1,200 Starlink satellites in orbit – some of which are no longer operational – making it the largest constellation of man-made satellites, according to Fox 35 Orlando.
Earlier this year, SpaceX opened up satellite access to members of the public in a current or planned service area using a pre-order reservation system.
The company plans to launch tens of thousands more to boost coverage, network capacity and speed.
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In a February 22 tweet, Musk said the constellation will provide active coverage to most of the Earth by 2021 and full global coverage by 2022.