Watch SpaceX Launch 60 Starlink Satellites Into Orbit Tonight


At 9:19 PM Eastern Standard Time (2:19 AM GMT), a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its 60 Starlink satellites lifted away from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

If the two previous 60-member Starlink launches, which occurred in May and November of a year ago, are any guide, these newly orbited satellites will be quite visible to observers under clear, dark skies, at least for the time being. SpaceX will operate a constellation of around 180 satellites (some of the original lots are no longer in operation), which is the most active use by any private satellite operator now in business.

To put that into context, there are now around 2,100 active satellites orbiting our planet, according to the Satellite Industry Association. If you want to watch the launch and landing live (ladings are always thrilling), here's how you can do it.

SpaceX's move to bring Internet to the world hasn't been without controversy.

Cape Canaveral's first rocket launch of the year is scheduled for Monday evening.

His California-based company has so far received United States authorisation to launch 12,000 satellites in several different orbits, and it has applied to launch as many as 30,000 more. Several rivals have the same ambition, including London-based startup OneWeb and giant U.S. retailer Amazon, whose Project Kuiper is far less advanced.

SpaceX's boss also entertains a long time dream of colonizing Mars.

Such traditional geostationary satellites are too distant to provide the kind of affordable internet access SpaceX aims to establish. On this flight, SpaceX is also testing an experimental darkening treatment on one satellite to further reduce the albedo of the body of the satellites.

Laura Forczyk, a space analyst, said the measures' effectiveness was still uncertain.

For perspective, only about 2,000 operational satellites now circle Earth, and humanity has launched fewer than 9,000 craft since the dawn of the Space Age, according to the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs.

This latest swarm of 60 Starlink satellites have anti-reflective coatings in an effort to appease astronomers.

It's a "first step" compromise between SpaceX and astronomers fearful of having dark skies spoiled by hundreds and, eventually, thousands of bright satellites circling overhead.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket rises from its launch pad, sending Starlink satellites into space. It notes that though the satellites it's launching will be very visible immediately after launch, after between one and four months, they'll climb to their final target orbit and re-orient themselves to become "significantly less visible from the ground".