SpaceX sending up internet satellites days after it launched astronauts

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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the Crew Dragon capsule, lifts off from Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020. The SpaceX Demo-2 mission is the first crewed launch of an orbital spaceflight from the U.S. in nearly a decade.

PHOTOS BYJOE BURBANK/ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS

BY CHABELI CARRAZANA
ORLANDO SENTINEL/THS

ORLANDO – On the heels of a historic mission with astronauts, SpaceX is back to its regularly scheduled programming.

The company launched another 60 of its own internet satellites to low-Earth orbit on Wednesday at about 9:25 p.m. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch pad 40.

Called Starlink, the 570-pound satellites are part of what will one day be a constellation numbering in the tens of thousands. The plan, SpaceX said, is to offer high-speed broadband internet to remote parts of the world. But to get there, the company needs to have thousands of Starlinks in orbit.

Sixth Starlink launch

SpaceX has been launching Starlinks at a rapid clip to achieve that goal. The satellites first debuted a year ago and since, Elon Musk’s rocket company has sent 420 Starlinks to space. Wednesday’s mission was the eighth for Starlink overall, and the sixth Starlink launch this year. Also onboard the mission is a sun visor SpaceX is testing to try to limit the brightness of the satellites, a response to complaints from the astronomical community that the Starlinks— often spotted as a train of lights in the sky — were disrupting scientific observations.

The sunshade will prevent light from reflecting off the antennas on the satellites. SpaceX initially tested a darker coating on the satellites earlier this year, but the coating made the Starlinks too hot. The company expects the visor will work better and provide better brightness reduction overall.

‘A real honor’

By the ninth flight of Starlink, all of the satellites will be outfitted with sun visors.

The mission comes days since SpaceX took off with two astronauts aboard its Crew Dragon capsule, a historic milestone that signaled the return of human spaceflight to the United States after nine years without the capability.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley took off from the Space Coast Saturday and reached the International Space Station a day later, thanking SpaceX and NASA for a job well done over more than a decade of work.

“It’s been a real honor to be part of this nine-year endeavor since the United States docked a spaceship at the International Space Station,” Hurley said.

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