SpaceX successfully launches Falcon 9 rocket with 60 satellites on board

What you need to know about today's SpaceX launch

Falcon 9 rocket launch from Cape Canaveral this morning

A Falcon-9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, placed 60 mini-satellites in orbit, joining 60 others launched in May. These 60 satellites follow 60 launched in May, but whereas those, and two launched previous year, were for testing purposes, this new batch is the first in a series of launches that will ready the constellation for providing internet service to consumers.

This also marked the first time SpaceX used a previously flown nose cone. The same rocket booster launched 10 Iridium Next satellites in July 2018, the Argentine space agency CONAE's Saocom-1A satellite in October 2018, and Indonesian satellite operator PSN's Nusantara Satu satellite this past February.

The booster had flown three times before - so today's mission marked the first time the same rocket booster has been launched and recovered four times.

Astronomers say the proliferation of the bright metallic satellites could seriously degrade the night view, interfering with telescopes trained on space.

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The Starlink mission aims to provide internet in the northern USA and Canada in 2020 and expand to "near global coverage of the populated world by 2021", according to SpaceX's website. Lauren Lyons, an engineer on SpaceX's Starlink team, said during the launch webcast that the satellites have 400% more throughput, can generate twice as many phased array broadband beams, and sport a new Ka-band antenna system. Starlink satellites use Krypton-fueled electric thrusters to reach their target orbit after leaving their rocket.

After sending the satellites to space, the Falcon 9 first stage landed on the droneship "Of Course I Still Love You" in the Atlantic Ocean. Each satellite weighs about 260 kg (573 lbs), which combine to form the heaviest payload ever launched by Space X at over 15.6 metric tons (34,000 lbs).

Shortly after the May launch, the American Astronomical Society issued a statement of concern over "the impending deployment of very large constellations of satellites into Earth orbit". "Let's turn it around for a fifth, guys", company's launch commentator said.

SpaceX has demonstrated speeds of 610 megabits per second using Starlink satellites with the US military.

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SpaceX says its satellite constellation will be operational for Canada and the northern USA by next year.

SpaceX could start offering limited Starlink service as early as next year.

Astronomy aside, the Starlink network is created to provide "high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity, ideally throughout the world", SpaceX founder Elon Musk said earlier this year.

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