Elon Musk’s SpaceX has officially sent up another round of Starlink satellites. The previous batch had been destroyed by a solar storm.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off under clear skies at 9:44 a.m. from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. There were 46 Starlinks onboard the rocket. The last time that SpaceX satellites were sent up into orbit, a solar storm destroyed most of them. 40 out of the 49 satellites were dragged back down into Earth’s atmosphere, where they burned up into nothing. Thankfully, this current payload hasn’t had any issues.
SpaceX Launches By the Numbers
SpaceX has committed to speeding up its launch process, which includes the number of launches that happen this year. According to founder Elon Musk, the space company is aiming for 50 launches this year. That would break last year’s record, which was 31 launches.
Not only that, but the space company is committed to reusing as many parts as possible, too. The last launch marks the 100th time that a Falcon 9 booster has been successfully recovered. It’s the 107th booster recovery overall. They also reused two fairing halves for the fourth time, but these have yet to be recovered. Overall, they’ve flown 32 missions using recovered fairing halves.
This batch of satellites makes up the fourth Starlink mission of the year. It’s the seventh liftoff across all launch sites in 2022. SpaceX launches from Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center, and Vandenburg Space Force Base. On top of that, this is the 38th Starlink flight since the satellites first got sent up in 2019. Overall, this Starlink payload is the 145th SpaceX launch.
After this launch, the number of Starlinks orbiting has now reached more than 2,100. However, more than 200 of them never became operational or are no longer working. Currently, the private space company is approved to place up to 4,408 Starlinks in space. They stay in a low orbit of 341 miles altitude. This low orbit contributed to the loss of SpaceX’s previous batch.
SpaceX launches Starlink satellites in order to provide global internet service. At full capacity, the service will bring in billions of dollars and be used by millions of people.
Too Many Satellites Could Cause Space Debris and Other Issues
Elon Musk’s company is seeking to increase the number of Starlinks in orbit. Not by a small amount, either. They’ve asked for approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to send up a grand total of 30,000 Starlink satellites.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that other companies, such as Amazon, are also looking to create “constellations” of satellites in space. NASA has previously said that it worries about how crowded space could get. If companies do this, the potential for space debris increases dramatically.
The Union of Concerned Scientists keeps a database of satellites. This keeps track of how many are operational and in orbit. At the start of 2022, there were 4,852 satellites in orbit. The majority of them (4,078) were in low Earth orbit.