On Monday (Jan. 6), SpaceX became the company operating the most satellites with the launch of its third batch of Starlink satellites. A Falcon 9 rocket delivered the payload of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, bringing the total number of satellites in the internet constellation up to 180.
The successful launch was the first under the governance of the newly established U.S. Space Force. The Falcon 9 first stage that carried the satellites into orbit had been used three times before, and this is the second Falcon 9 booster to fly four times.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, at 9:19 p.m. EST on Jan. 6 (0219 GMT on Jan. 7).
The Falcon 9 first stage had previously launched the first batch of Starlink satellites, as well as the Iridium-8 and Telstar 18 VANTAGE missions before this historic fourth flight.
The 60 new Starlink satellites, marking the third batch deployed, made SpaceX the operator of the largest satellite fleet in space.
The Falcon 9 rocket soars into space with 60 of the company’s Starlink internet satellites in this long-exposure photo of the launch.
The Falcon 9 rocket launch arches far into the atmosphere on its way to space as seen from Cocoa Beach, Florida. The Starlink satellites will provide internet coverage to Earth, expanding coverage to areas that have poor or no coverage now.
While in orbit, the Falcon 9 deploys its grid fins to help guide it back to Earth safely (left). On the right the Falcon 9 second stage fires to power the rocket back into Earth’s atmosphere.
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