SpaceX adds 60 Starlink satellites to its total in orbit
SpaceX has launched the next 60 satellites in its plan to build its global Starlink network, ultimately designed to have 12,000 satellites.
A Falcon 9 rocket launched the latest batch from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday evening at 21:25 local time (01:25 UTC on Thursday). The satellites were released 15 minutes after launch (see picture).
One of the 60 has an experimental visor that is intended to block sunlight reflecting from its solar panels – something that has caused complaints from astronomers worried about light pollution.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX still has a long way to go to reach its projected initial total of 12,000 satellites, which will deliver high-bandwidth internet coverage to most of the Earth’s surface. Assuming all 60 go into orbit correctly, it will now have 480 in service, meaning there are still 11,520 to go.
It aims to have 1,440 in service by the end of 2020, but last October the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approached the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to seek a licence for another 30,000 Starlink satellites on top of the initial 12,000.
The FCC has already licensed SpaceX to install up to a million satellite terminals across the continental US, plus Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Isles for its Starlink service. The licence, which runs until March 2035, permits Starlink to use 48cm diameter dishes to send and receive broadband internet.