With a Falcon 9 rocket launch Friday, SpaceX added 57 more satellites to the Starlink broadband fleet and deployed a pair of piggyback commercial Earth-imaging reconnaissance satellites for BlackSky, wrapping up a busy week that began with SpaceX’s return of two NASA astronauts to Earth and the first low-altitude test flight of the company’s next-generation Starship vehicle.
After a six-week delay for undisclosed reasons, SpaceX raised a Falcon 9 vertical on its launch pad Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for another try early Friday to send into orbit the company’s next batch of Starlink Internet relay stations and a pair of commercial BlackSky Earth-imaging microsatellites.
Despite a growing number of rocket options, the availability of on-time launch services remains a key factor in getting BlackSky’s constellation of Earth-imaging smallsats into orbit. SpaceX’s rideshare launch service will give BlackSky a chance to add two more spacecraft to its fleet on a Falcon 9 rocket with the next batch of Starlink Internet payloads.
A new sunshade, or visor, designed to reduce the brightness of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband Internet satellites will debut on the company’s next launch, a measure intended to alleviate astronomers’ concerns about impacts on observations through ground-based telescopes, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Monday.