SpaceX has successfully deployed 60 Starlink satellites into orbit, the first step in the Elon Musk-backed’s company’s bid to create a space-based internet connectivity service that competes with traditional networks.
SpaceX confirmed on Thursday night that it had launched the satellites on its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch had been pushed back twice due to bad weather.
The company’s Starlink mission aims to “connect the globe with reliable and affordable high-speed broadband services” via a constellation of satellites.
Mr Musk said on Twitter that the 18.5 ton launch was the heaviest payload ever carried into orbit by SpaceX, adding that it would take six more launches of 60 satellites each for initial activation of the internet service, and another 12 batches for “significant coverage”.
The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage successfully landed on a ‘drone ship’ named “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean, and will be reused for future launches. The launch was live-streamed on the SpaceX website.
While satellite-based internet services exist, they lack worldwide coverage, are typically expensive compared to surface-based technology, and suffer from reliability issues.
Starlink satellites are designed to orbit at lower altitude, providing faster connectivity that SpaceX says will be comparable to ground-based cable and fibre optic networks.
The new service will compete with other start-up satellite internet companies, including SoftBank-funded OneWeb and Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin, which also aim to provide similar boosts to connectivity.