US private space company SpaceX launched its sixth batch of 60 Starlink satellites into space this week, in an effort to build at minimum a 12,000-strong satellite network capable of providing broadband internet services.
The launch was the second time SpaceX has re-flown a full payload fairing. After landing in the water, both fairing halves were quickly recovered, according to SpaceX.
However, an attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage in the Atlantic Ocean on SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” was not successful.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the Falcon 9 experienced the loss of one of its nine engines during the trip to space, but was still able to deliver its Starlink satellites haul into orbit.
“There was also an early engine shutdown on the ascent, but it didn’t affect orbit insertion,” Musk tweeted after the launch. “Shows value of having 9 engines! Thorough investigation needed before next mission.”
Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported the Iridium-7 NEXT mission in July 2018, the SAOCOM 1A mission in October 2018, the Nusantara Satu mission in February 2019, and the second launch of Starlink in November 2019, according to SpaceX.
With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.