SpaceX sent a fresh batch of 60 Starlink broadband satellites into orbit tonight on a Falcon 9 rocket, executing a mission that aims to give the California-based company the world’s biggest commercial satellite constellation.
When added to the previous two 60-satellite launches, the Starlink tally comes to 180 satellites. Some of SpaceX’s previously launched satellites are no longer in service; nevertheless, the launch was expected to push Starlink past Planet’s constellation of roughly 140 Earth-imaging satellites.
SpaceX’s facility in Redmond, Wash., is playing the lead role in building Starlink satellites. Eventually, SpaceX aims to have thousands of the satellites in low Earth orbit — but the prospect of having so many spacecraft in orbit has sparked concerns about the effect on astronomical observations and space traffic jams.
Tonight’s liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida came at 9:19 p.m. ET (6:19 p.m. PT), marking the first orbital launch of 2020.