SpaceX launched an additional sixty Starlink satellites to add to the constellation currently being built in space on January 7, 2020.
The small satellites will be used to provide global “high-speed broadband internet” according to the Starlink website and this latest launch takes the total of internet satellites already in orbit to 182.
The satellites were carried into orbit by a Falcon-9, semi-recyclable rocket, which successfully landed its “first stage” reusable parts on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic following the launch forty-five minutes prior. A recovery vessel was then sent to retrieve the parts.
The payload was deployed at an altitude of just over 180 miles and following data checks to ensure the satellites are functioning as expected, they will rise to an orbit altitude of 341 miles by utilizing onboard thrusters. This process takes between one to four months and during this time they are close together in clusters with their solar panels at a “low-drag” arrangement making them visible from Earth.
SpaceX has faced criticism following the roll-out, as astronomers complain the unnatural objects are obscuring their view of the night sky, with images of rows of lights spreading across the internet and social media. The American Astronomical Society has called a meeting in Hawaii this week to discuss the matter and vice president of satellite government affairs at SpaceX, Patricia Cooper will be in attendance.
According to the SpaceX Starlink mission overview “Once the satellites reach their operational altitude of 550km and begin onstation service, their orientation changes, and the satellites become significantly less visible from the ground. On this flight, SpaceX is also testing an experimental darkening treatment on one satellite to further reduce the albedo of the body of the satellites.”
The mega broadband constellation will consist of 12,000 satellites when complete. SpaceX is planning to launch another 60 Starlink satellites on Wednesday January 29, weather permitting.
“Starlink will provide fast, reliable internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.”, according to the mission statement.