While many of us Earth walkers are taking time off this Monday to observer Veterans Day (or shop the Singles’ Day sales bonanza), workaholic futurist Elon Musk has chosen to kick off the November week with a SpaceX mission. On Monday, the rocket company launched 60 solar-powered satellites as part of its massive broadband internet project known as Starlink.
The five dozen satellites, weighing 573 pounds each, were lifted off the ground by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with previously used first stage and nose cone fairing (used to protect the payload) from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
It was the second batch of satellites launched in a plan to build a constellation of thousands to provide global broadband internet access. SpaceX launched its first batch of 60 satellites in May. The company plans to launch another four batches by the end of 2020, which will put a total of 360 satellites into orbit and provide internet coverage in parts of the U.S. and Canada. Global coverage will require an additional 1,000 satellites or so.
Prior to Monday’s mission, Musk shared photos of the launch site and payload on Twitter over the weekend, noting that it would be the fourth mission for Falcon 9’s reusable first stage and the second for the fairing.
SpaceX has regulatory approvals to launch 12,000 satellites. But after its first launch in May, astronomers were already expressing concerns about the satellites being too bright in the sky.
“Professional astronomers worried the satellites would interfere with scientific observations and amateur appreciation of the stars,” Space.com reported this past Sunday.
SpaceX has assured astronomers that, once the satellites are settled into place, they would “stop masquerading as the stars they are named for,” per Space.com.
“SpaceX has increased spectrum capacity for the end-user through upgrades in design that maximize the use of both Ka and Ku bands,” the company said in a press release on Monday. “Additionally, components of each satellite are 100% demisable and will quickly burn up in Earth’s atmosphere at the end of their life cycle—a measure that exceeds all current safety standards.”
SpaceX ran a 100-minute webcast of Monday’s launch event. You can watch it here: