SpaceX successfully launched an additional 52 Starlink Internet broadband satellites into orbit on Saturday, less than a week after the last batch was shipped. A small satellite from the startup Capella Space and a Tyvak observation satellite also made a trip to the launch, which took off on Saturday evening from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
An experienced Falcon 9 booster was used for the launch, which had already been launched and landed seven times before, including during three Starlink missions. It left its launch pad at 6:56 p.m. (3:56 p.m.) and returned to Earth about nine minutes later. The rocket landed vertically on SpaceX’s autonomous drone ship “Of course I still love you” in the Atlantic.
The launch company has launched more than 530 Starlink satellites into space since March, all of them on reused rockets. Reusability is a key factor in making launches as cost effective as possible. This is especially important as SpaceX is both the launch provider and the customer of the Starlink service. As a result, SpaceX has been able to rapidly accelerate its Starlink launcher, with 28 launches so far. At least one more launch is planned for the end of this month.
The company announced earlier this month that it had received “over half a million” pre-order reservations for Starlink broadband services to date. Starlink is available in beta to customers in six countries: Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, Mexico, and Canada. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company plans to have its low-earth orbit broadband internet network operational in most of the world by the end of 2021.