SpaceX test-fires rocket ahead of launch of third batch of Starlink satellites

According to a SpaceX / Starlink press release, once all satellite positioned in space, "SpaceX engineers will conduct data reviews to ensure all Starlink satellites are operating as intended".

On Monday night from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Flordia, SpaceX will launch 60 more satellites, adding to the 120 it launched into space a year ago.

This launch will add 60 more satellites to the SpaceX Starlink constellation, joining 60 launched at the end of a year ago, and a previous group of 60 launched earlier in 2019 for testing and experimentation purposes.

SpaceX's facility in Redmond, Wash., is playing the lead role in building Starlink satellites.

Starlink is already the largest telecom satellite constellation in existence, and SpaceX has regulatory approval to launch a total of more than 10,000 satellites. SpaceX will start a livestream of the Starlink mission at approximately 9:04 p.m. ET on its YouTube channel.

Minutes after launch, the Falcon 9's first-stage booster fell away from the second stage and landed itself on a drone ship dubbed "Of Course I Still Love You", stationed hundreds of miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. The attempt came close but missed, SpaceX reported. An hour later, all 60 satellites were free of their upper stage and making their own way in orbit.

As of November, about 8,950 satellites have been launched into orbit by more than 40 nations. They'll eventually move up to a 340-mile altitude.

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As they climb, the spacecraft will spread out and become dimmer, partly because they'll shift their solar arrays out of a special low-altitude, low-drag orientation. SpaceX says their brightness will dim as the panels are reoriented. The topic is due to come up this week in Hawaii at the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

This latest swarm of 60 Starlink satellites have anti-reflective coatings in an effort to appease astronomers.

The company livestreamed the launch of two loads of 60 Starlink satellites - one of which is experimental, and the other operational.

Space traffic management is another concern.

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

Musk's plans for the United States-based SpaceX Starlink project is to make broadband communications, which carry the internet, accessible across the globe, from pole to pole.

  • Delia Davidson