Elon Musk’s SpaceX, once again launched a batch of 60 Starlink satellites on April 7th, keeping up with its superfast pace, as it has managed to launch an impressive total of 300 satellites from the Starlink series into space. All of these 300 mini sats were launched in barely a little over a month since the first batch took off on March 4th 2021. The feat has been achieved by sending the satellites in five batches, that were launched between then and now, with each of them being spaced at gaps of only a few days.
In fact, the gap between the latest launch and the previous one, happens to be the longest between any two consecutive launches during the past month. The previous launch was on March 24th, and was preceeded by launches on March 14th and March 11th as well. If this fast pace is surprising you, then you had better take note of the fact that it has intentionally been kept this way, so as to keep the company’s plans of launching 1,500 satellites from the Starlink family into space by the end of this calendar year, on track.
This isn’t the first time that SpaceX has launched Starlink satellites into space in the recent months. Before this series of five missions, it had sent forth four other missions, including one which was on the firm’s first dedicated rideshare, where its rocket also carried satellites for other customers.
The April 7th mission was carried out by SpaceX’s workshorse Falcon 9 rocket, which took off from Cape Canaveral, and topped it off by completely nailing a sea landing. During a live broadcast from the launch, Jessie Anderson, a SpaceX manufacturing engineer, said, “Falcon 9 has successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station carrying our stack of Starlink satellites to orbit.” Roughly 9 minutes after it took off, the rocket’s first stage made a successful touchdown at the agency’s “Of Course I Still Love You” drone. This successful mission adds to the list of SpaceX’s launches in 2021, taking the current tally to 10.
After yesterday, SpaceX has launched a total of 1,443 Starlink satellites for its constellation, even though the real number of satellites in orbit as of now is lesser, as many of them have been de-orbited as planned. Nevertheless, the company still inches closer to its initial plan of filling 1400 satellites into its constellation, which could eventually grow much bigger, and contain as many as 42,000 satellites (expected number). The company has a permission to launch up to 30,000 satellites, with an option to launch even more. So it does seem that the expected number of 42,000 may actually come true.
With so many missions being launched by SpaceX and its governmental counterpart NASA, the two agencies recently signed a pact which decides how the two of them are to avoid close approaches and collisions in space.
After the touchdown, SpaceX is set to look for its fairing halves at sea, which actually happen to be two cargo shields which are used to cover the satellites as they take off, so that it can reuse them.