SpaceX Starlink 36 launch Falcon 9 first stage landing

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SpaceX’s third Falcon 9 rocket launch of the week carried 49 more Starlink internet satellites into orbit Thursday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, continuing the rapid build-out of the company’s commercial broadband network.

SpaceX Starlink 36 launch Falcon 9 first stage landing

Liftoff from launch pad 39A occurred at 1:13:20 p.m. EST (1813:20 GMT) to begin a 15-minute sequence to deploy the 49 Starlink satellites into orbit.

You can watch a replay of our live launch coverage on this page.

The mission, known as Starlink 4-7 on SpaceX’s launch schedule, was delayed from last weekend to wait for two higher-priority Falcon 9 launches. One of those, carrying an Italian radar satellite, suffered a series of delays caused by bad weather and a cruise ship in the downrange launch hazard area.

The Italian radar satellite launched from Cape Canaveral on Monday, and a classified National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite launched on a Falcon 9 rocket Wednesday from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

The 49 flat-panel Starlink satellites packaged inside the Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing for liftoff Thursday will join more than 1,500 operational spacecraft in SpaceX’s global internet network, beaming broadband signals to more than 145,000 subscribers in more than 25 countries.

The satellites each weigh more than a quarter-ton, and were built at SpaceX’s Starlink factory in Redmond, Washington. SpaceX has launched 2,042 Starlink satellites to date, including spacecraft that have failed or already been decommissioned, and the 49 satellites that took off Thursday brought that number to 2,091.

SpaceX is continuing the deployment of around 4,400 Starlink satellites in five orbital “shells” at slightly different altitudes and at different inclinations, or angles to the equator. The launch Thursday targeted an orbital shell at an inclination of 53.2 degrees and an altitude of 335 miles (540 kilometers).

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket headed southeast from Kennedy Space Center to deploy the Starlink payloads into orbit. The mission aimed to release the Starlink satellites at T+plus 15 minutes, 31 seconds, into an orbit ranging in altitude between 130 miles and 210 miles (210 by 339 kilometers).

The satellites will unfurl solar arrays and turn on ion thrusters to maneuver into their operational orbit at an altitude of 335 miles.

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