Elon Musk celebrates the 200th flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket
SpaceX today launched its hugely successful Falcon 9 rocket into space for the 200th time as it launched an additional 53 Starlink Internet satellites into orbit.
The big milestone comes just weeks before Elon Musk’s highly anticipated Mars spacecraft, Starship, will make its first orbital flight.
Falcon 9 is the safest and most experienced active US rocket and the only one currently certified to carry humans to the International Space Station.
The vehicle made it a double century of launches when it blasted into space earlier this morning (Thursday), launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 07:58 GMT (02:58).
Powered by a first-stage booster, the rocket was crowned with 53 Starlink satellites, bringing the total now in orbit to more than 3,800.
Milestone: SpaceX today launched its hugely successful Falcon 9 rocket into space for the 200th time, as it launched an additional 53 Starlink Internet satellites into orbit
This first stage then returned to Earth, landing on SpaceX’s A Shortfall of Gravitas drone ship about 8 minutes and 45 seconds after launch.
It was the fourth launch of Starlink satellites this year so far.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THE ‘GEN2’ STARLINK SATELLITES?
The ‘Gen2’ Starlink satellite is an upgraded version of the first-generation model, of which SpaceX has launched more than 3,800.
These would be more powerful, so could handle more traffic and provide faster service.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said in the past that they will also offer instant smartphone connectivity, expanding cellular coverage into “dead zones around the world.”
However, it’s unclear whether the satellites launched today will have this capability, as documentation suggests the required hardware makes them too heavy to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket.
SpaceX has permission to put a constellation of 12,000 into orbit, but has applied for approval to add another 30,000.
The satellites provide low-latency, high-speed internet at an affordable price — often to remote areas with no existing Wi-Fi — and expanded last year to yachts, cruise ships and RVs.
In tests, the service has been shown to offer speeds of up to 200 megabits per second, which is higher than what copper cables typically used in more remote areas can achieve.
While all Starlink launches to date have been deployed using a Falcon 9, that could soon change once Starship is airborne.
That’s because Musk’s $3bn (£2.4bn) spacecraft – a vehicle that could be a game-changer for long-distance space travel – is expected to be able to handle the larger and heavier Starlink 2.0 satellites, which will soon be able to beam internet to smartphones.
The first batch of up to 7,500 units of the upgraded model was sent into space at the end of 2022.
These are said to be more powerful than the first generation models and so can handle more traffic.
Last month, the 395-foot-tall Starship rocket and accompanying craft reached a major milestone after being fueled and fully stacked for the first time, meaning launch could take place in the coming weeks.
The vehicle made it a double century of launches when it blasted into space earlier this morning (Thursday), launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 07:58 GMT (02:58)
It was the fourth launch of Starlink satellites this year so far. Pictured is a launch on January 31
No spacecraft is currently capable of sending humans to Mars, but that could all change with the development of Starship, which is built to deliver the first astronauts to the Red Planet by 2030.
Its creation is part of Musk’s larger vision to make us a ‘multi-planetary species’, first by founding a human colony on Mars and even to the point of building cities.
Starship will be able to carry up to 100 people to the Red Planet on a journey 250 times farther than the moon and would take about nine months.
In April 2021, NASA also announced that it had selected SpaceX’s next-generation vehicle as the first crewed lunar lander for its Artemis III mission – which would put the first woman and first person of color on the moon in 2025.
ELON MUSK’S SPACEX BRINGS BROADBAND INTERNET TO THE WORLD WITH ITS STARLINK CONSTELLATION OF SATELLITES
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched more than 3,000 of its “Starlink” space Internet satellites into orbit and hopes to have 30,000 in the air.
They form a constellation designed to provide low-cost broadband Internet service from low Earth orbit.
While satellite internet has been around for a while, it has suffered from high latency and unreliable connections.
StarLink is different. SpaceX said its goal is to provide high-speed, low-latency internet anywhere in the world, especially in remote areas.
Musk has previously said the company could provide a low-cost way for three billion people who currently don’t have access to the internet to get online.
It will also help fund a future city on Mars.
Helping humanity reach the Red Planet and become multi-planetary is one of Musk’s long-held goals and was what inspired him to start SpaceX.
Musk’s rival Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, also plans to launch a constellation of satellites into low Earth orbit to provide broadband access to remote areas, as part of his Project Kuiper.
However, astronomers have expressed concern about the light pollution and other interference these satellite constellations cause.