SpaceX Achieves Major Milestone Launching Project’s First Flight to Orbit Around Earth’s Poles

by Michael Freeman

Developing a satellite mega constellation named Starlink to provide commercial internet service, SpaceX achieved a major milestone for the project yesterday. Despite heavy fog, it launched a batch of Starlink internet satellites into polar orbit.

Yesterday evening SpaceX fired 51 upgraded relay stations into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. This is the project’s first flight to orbit around Earth’s poles using new internet beacons featuring satellite-to-satellite laser communications links. The communication links minimize time lost relaying data through ground stations, making them incredibly useful.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and CEO spoke at a recent conference about the launch. “We’re flying a number of laser terminals right now in space, and we’re working on probably our third generation. That’s why we haven’t flown Starlinks for six or eight weeks, because we wanted the next set to have the laser terminals.”

The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage, making a record-tying 10th flight, took off at 11:55 p.m. EDT last night. After successfully dropping its second stage engine shortly afterward, the rocket released 51 Starlinks to fly on their own. Each small satellite was to use onboard propulsion to reach its operational state. This launch puts a staggering 1,791 Starlinks into orbit.

The Starlink satellite system is trying to eventually bring relatively high-speed internet to any point on the planet. “There are millions and billions of people that do not have access to decent internet,” Shotwell said. “So that’s a pretty big market. I am not worried about the number of organizations that are interested in doing this. I’m interested and concerned about their sustainability when it comes to the space environment.”

Currently in beta, the Starlink system hopes to improve stability and connectivity within the next few months.

SpaceX to Launch Historic Civilian Space Flight

Following their successful launch last night, SpaceX plans to undergo a historic event tomorrow. For the first time, an all-civilian crew will go to space.

The special mission, Inspiration4, will launch four civilians into space on a three-day journey around the Earth. The cherry on top is that proceeds from the entire project will go toward St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. A few weeks ago, the official Inspiration4 Twitter account posted pictures of the lucky four.

“A look at Dragon’s Cupola, which will provide our Inspiration4 astronauts with incredible views of Earth from orbit!” Inspiration 4 captioned their post. “The crew visited the flight-hardware Cupola in California before it was shipped to Florida for integration with Dragon Resilience.”

Altogether, the Crew Dragon spacecraft will take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. However, harsh weather conditions might delay the flight. Overall, the capsule is shooting for an altitude of roughly 335 miles, around the same as the Hubble Space Telescope.