Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the Hawthorne-based aerospace company, launched 58 Starlink satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket on June 13, then successfully landed the rocket on a waiting SpaceX ship at sea.
The mission marked the start of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program, which allows small satellite customers to send payloads into orbit at a reduced cost by sharing a launch with SpaceX or other organizations.
For the June 13 launch, SpaceX split the payload with Planet Labs Inc., which included three of the company’s small Earth-observation satellites known as SkySats.
Planet Lab’s SkySats were deployed sequentially, beginning about 12 minutes after liftoff. The Starlink satellites, part of SpaceX’s international broadband service network, were deployed about 26 minutes after liftoff.
Following stage separation, the Falcon 9’s first booster stage landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
The booster stage previously supported two SpaceX resupply missions to the International Space Station that were contracted by NASA, according to the company.
The launch is the second Starlink mission this month following a June 3 effort that deployed 60 satellites. The latest launch brings the number of operational Starlink satellites in orbit to 538.
The Federal Communications Commission has given approval to SpaceX for the use of nearly 12,000 Starlink satellites.
Starlink expects to provide internet service in the Northern United States and Canada in 2020 and plans to expand to near global coverage of the populated world by 2021, according to the SpaceX website.
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