CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – At 9:19 pm EST, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Starlink 2 mission – 60 new Starlink communications satellites – into orbit. Eight minutes and thirty seconds after launch, they landed the first stage on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean. They also unsuccessfully attempted to catch half of the payload fairing, the dome-like structure at the top of the rocket, which provides protection for the payload during launch, with Ms. Tree, on of two autonomous drone ships designed to chase and catch them.
The Starlink 2 mission, as stated, will deliver the next set of Starlink communications satellites. The Starlink constellation, when completed, will provide broadband internet service worldwide via 12,000 individual satellites by the mid-2020’s, with a possible extension to 42,000 satellites at a later time. This is a simple and effective way for SpaceX to create cash flow to further develop the Starship for flight, among other major projects down the road.
There is some consternation among astronomers as these satellites are visible from the ground. On this flight, SpaceX is trying an experimental darkening paint on a single satellite to check its effectiveness at making the satellites less visible to astronomers. Even so, some fear that such a vast array of satellites will cause issues with earth-bound observations. Musk has stated that this should not be an issue, as the future of astronomy is in space, and not bound to the earth.