SpaceX Launches 100th Successful Flight in a Row Amid Growing Industry Backlash

It's SpaceX's 100th successful flight in a row since 2015.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen in this time exposure from Cocoa Beach, Florida as it launches the company’s third Starlink mission on January 6, 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

SpaceX successfully launched another batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit Wednesday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

It was SpaceX’s 100th consecutive successful flight since June 2015, when a Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage failed during a cargo supply mission to the International Space Station, and the company’s 16th flight of 2021.

You can watch live coverage of the event on SpaceX’s webcast starting 15 minutes before liftoff.

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Wednesday’s mission is the 13th Starlink launch in 2021 so far. The Elon Musk-led company has been sending Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit every 10 days on average, a record pace that’s increasingly worrying to its space industry peers.

On Friday, the satellite operator Viasat formally asked the Federal Communications Commission to stop SpaceX from launching more Starlink satellites as it heads to a federal court to push for a thorough environmental review of the mega-constellation project.

A previous FCC license allowed SpaceX to launch 1,584 Starlink satellites to the 550-kilometer orbital zone. By the end of April, SpaceX was close to meeting that limit. So, on April 27, the FCC approved a SpaceX application to modify the license to allow the company to launch more satellites. SpaceX exceeded the initial 1,584 limit after launching a batch of 60 Starlink satellites on May 15.

The modification didn’t change the total number of Starlink satellites allowed by the FCC in low Earth orbit. The agency originally approved 4,409 Starlink satellites, including 2,825 in the orbital zone between 1,100 and 1,300 kilometers and 1,584 satellites at the 550-kilometer zone. The new license reduced the number of satellites allowed in the higher orbits and moved those to the lower orbit. SpaceX has said operating Starlink in lower orbits helps reduce latency between satellites and ground stations, thus improving network performance.

Viasat is asking the FCC to pause further Starlink launches until federal courts can review the license modification. Viasat, which provides broadband services from geostationary orbit (GEO), had petitioned the FCC to conduct an environmental review on the rapidly growing Starlink constellation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The FCC hasn’t initiated such a review, arguing that environmental review is part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s responsibility when it issues flight licenses.

SpaceX Launches 100th Successful Flight in a Row Amid Growing Industry Backlash