SpaceX Became the Largest Private Satellite Operation in the World Last Night with First Official Launch of 2020

Tuesday, 07 January 2020 - 9:17AM
SpaceX
Tuesday, 07 January 2020 - 9:17AM
SpaceX Became the Largest Private Satellite Operation in the World Last Night with First Official Launch of 2020
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Credit: Flickr – Official SpaceX Photos CC BY NC 2.0
Last night, SpaceX launched the first rocket of 2020 – and surpassed Planet Labs to become the largest private satellite operation, according to Ars Technica.


The Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida late on Monday, January 6, carrying a fleet of 60 Starlink satellites with new technology to address environmental concerns.


It was a relatively smooth launch that stuck to the playbook: Upon entering orbit, the Falcon 9 coasted for approximately 36 minutes. Then, the Merlin Vac second stage engine fired up just long enough for a precise two-second burn to reach the final point of deployment: all 60 Starlink satellites separated from their carrier at once, then ignited krypton-powered thrusters to soar to their final position in the skies almost 200 miles above Earth.


Starlink is a SpaceX initiative to provide widespread high-speed broadband internet access to the entire globe – especially where it is difficult or expensive to acquire. Each satellite features its own solar panel for sustained (and sustainable) power, a tiny ionic thruster for mobility, as well as a built-in navigation system that helps to maintain altitude, monitor and adjust internet coverage, as well as avoid collisions.


Recently, the scientific community rang alarm bells that Starlink satellites were interfering with ground-based astronomy, disrupting the night sky and contributing to the ever-growing "space junk" problem orbiting Earth. SpaceX took heed – the new fleet of satellites come equipped with a dark mode to control light pollution and are designed to "de-orbit" themselves and then burn up in Earth's atmosphere to reduce waste.


This is the third launch of Starlink satellites, bringing the total number in orbit to 180. Space.Com estimates that it will require 24 launches before achieving global coverage; they will look like a "string of pearls" in the night sky.


Starlink internet service is expected to arrive in the northern United States and Canada sometime in 2020; the company expects "near global coverage of the entire populated world" by 2021.


You can watch a video of last night's launch below:




(Cover Image: Flickr – Official SpaceX Photos CC BY NC 2.0)
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