CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – After the fog cleared over Cape Canaveral Monday a Falcon 9 rocket blasted off carrying another batch of SpaceX satellites as part of the company’s goal to create a space-based internet.
The rocket launched at 10:05 a.m. minutes after the fog appeared to part ways revealing a mostly clear blue sky. Sixty Starlink satellites were jam-packed inside the rocket’s nose cone, bringing SpaceX’s total in space to 300.
Unlike the previous four batches of Starlink satellites, which were deployed into a circular orbit in low-Earth orbit, the spacecraft launched Monday were deployed into an elliptical, or oval orbit.
SpaceX confirmed all satellites were successfully deployed in orbit about 15 minutes after launch.
[Re-watch the liftoff and landing attempt at the top of this story]
In a rare event, SpaceX didn’t stick the landing with its rocket booster. The rocket booster was supposed to make a controlled landing on the “Of Course I Love You” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean but video from SpaceX showed an empty floating landing pad. A slight splash in the ocean could be seen around the time the booster would have touched down.
The landing would have marked the 50th booster landing for the company.
The Falcon 9 booster previously launched and landed on three other missions. SpaceX saves millions in launch costs by re-flying rocket hardware.
The company also attempted to catch the two pieces of the rocket’s nose cone, called fairings, after liftoff. Two boats — named Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief — with giant nets are waiting in the Atlantic to catch the hardware.
SpaceX hasn’t said if the boats successfully caught the fairings.
Rocket watchers from near and far gathered before the countdown Monday at Space View Park hoping to see the launch.
Jason Jump from Liverpool, England was among them.
“We love the launches, they’re really exciting and really it’s just a pleasure to be here and to see history being made,” Jump said.
Jessica Hurley made the drive up from West Palm Beach for the event and was worried about the fog.
“We were a little concerned driving up here looking at the weather coming through fog and whatnot, but we’re glad it cleared up,” she said.
Meanwhile, 5-year-old Kaitlyn Scoles, of Windermere, was impressed by the booming sound from the launch.
“It was so loud,” she said. “It almost broke my ears.”
This was the fifth mission dedicated to SpaceX’s Starlink constellation. The company and CEO Elon Musk are working to create a space-based internet using satellites that beam internet signal down to Earth, even to remote areas.
SpaceX is now operating more spacecraft in low-Earth orbit than any other company.
Launching 60 satellites at a time SpaceX plans to send up another round of Starlink spacecraft every few weeks, eventually, operating a fleet of thousands.
Rocket: Falcon 9
Payload: 60 Starlink satellites
Launch time: 10:05 a.m.
Where: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 40
Landing and recovery attempts: Booster landing on Of Course I Still Love You. Fairing catch attempt with Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief.
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