SpaceX launched the first batch of a new generation of Starlink satellites into orbit early Wednesday (December 28) and nailed a sea-landing rocket to mark a record 60th flight of the year.
A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 54 upgrades Starlink Internet Satellites — the first generation 2 (Gen2) versions of the SpaceX fleet – lit up the predawn sky with a soft launch at 4:34 a.m. EST (0934 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
“With our new license, we are now able to deploy satellites into new orbits that will add even more capacity to the network,” SpaceX chief production and engineering officer Jesse Anderson said during commentary. live launch. “Ultimately, this allows us to add more customers and provide faster service, especially in areas that are currently oversubscribed.”
About eight minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9 first stage returned to Earth with a landing on the SpaceX drone A Shortfall of Gravitas in the Atlantic Ocean, where poor recovery weather threatened to delay the launch. The touchdown marked the successful completion of SpaceX’s 60th launch in 2022, nearly doubling the 31 launches set as a SpaceX record in 2021.
The Falcon 9 first stage on this mission completed its 11th flight with Wednesday’s launch. The booster previously flew five Starlink missions, launched two U.S. GPS satellitescommercial satellite Nilesat 301 and carried two different private astronaut crews on the inspiration4 and Axe-1 missions, SpaceX said.
The company will also attempt to salvage the two payload fairing halves that made up the Falcon 9’s nose cone, both of which had previously flown, for later reuse, Anderson said.
SpaceX’s Starlink Gen2 would be more powerful than the around 3,300 working in orbit right now, and it looks like SpaceX needs to increase the bandwidth. The broadband network is facing congestion issues despite sending hundreds of first-generation Starlink satellites aloft this year, a recent SpaceNews (opens in a new tab) proposed report.
“Starlink is a satellite internet constellation designed and manufactured by SpaceX to deliver high-speed, low-latency internet to people living in remote and rural locations around the world,” Anderson said.
On December 1, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized SpaceX to deploy 7,500 Gen2 satellites. This was only a partial approval, however, as SpaceX applied to the FCC for permission to send nearly 30,000 of these satellites into low Earth orbit.
In addition to being able to handle more traffic, Gen2 satellites can beam service directly to smartphones, SpaceX founder says Elon Musk said. As this crop heads off into space aboard a Falcon 9, SpaceX eventually plans to use its enormous Spatialship rocket, which has been in development and has been waiting for approval to fly in space for 18 months.
Editor’s note: This story, originally published on December 27, was updated on December 28 to include Starlink 5-1 launch results and to correct the number of times the Falcon 9 booster flew. It was his 11th mission.
Elizabeth Howell is co-author of “Why am I taller (opens in a new tab)?” (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book on space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) or Facebook (opens in a new tab).