Monday night, Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched a slew of Starlink satellites into orbit, the first such launch since May.
The Falcon 9 rocket launched on time from Space Launch Complex 4E at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 8:55 p.m. PDT, bringing 51 Starlink satellites into orbit that were deployed about 30 minutes later.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/ilu3mrKetu— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 14, 2021
As the communication satellites began their trip away from one another toward their operational orbit, SpaceX announced the deployment through Twitter.
After detaching from stage one of the rocket, which transported the satellites into space, the booster was retrieved by its autonomous drone ship “I Still Love You” in the Pacific Ocean.
It was the booster’s tenth launch and the company’s 90th overall retrieval, according to SpaceX.
Despite poor sight on the ground, Youmei Zhou, a SpaceX propulsion engineer, declared during the event webcast that the weather was perfect for the launch.
It was the first Starlink flight from the Vandenberg Space Force Base since May, as well as the first West Coast Starlink mission and SpaceX’s first for the year.
The satellites being carried into space will be testing fully operational optical inter satellite links, also known as space lasers, to communicate with one another instead of needing to use radio frequencies to be relayed between one another via ground operations, according to Zhou. This is the 16th Starlink launch of the year.
“Fewer pings to ground stations means Starlink will be able to both expand and improve service especially in very remote areas,” she said. “All future Starlink satellites will feature optical space lasers.”
The 229-foot rocket was launched from the California facility, and the satellites will be placed in polar orbit, giving them “near worldwide coverage,” according to Zhou.
In its mission to bring high-speed, low-latency Internet around the world, SpaceX has launched 32 rockets, including Monday’s. Its most recent launch occurred in late May, when 60 Starlink satellites were launched into orbit.
According to SpaceX, more than half a million people have either placed an order or made a deposit for the Internet service, which is now in beta in a number of countries.