WATCH: SpaceX Successfully Launches New Batch of Starlink Satellites

by Liz Holland

On Friday, February 25th, SpaceX launched 50 Starlink satellites. The launch took place from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The Elon Musk aerospace company is making its case for sustainability in space, as this Falcon 9 rocket has previously supported three other missions. 

The Falcon 9 rocket launched at 12:12pm PST. The rocket released its 50 satellites into orbit a little over an hour later. Despite concerns from other experts about the potential harm of SpaceX’s use of low earth orbit satellites, the company continues to push back. 

The rocket released Starlink satellites at an altitude of about 315km. The official SpaceX twitter account shared a video of the Starlink mission, allowing anyone with an internet connection to watch the phenomenon for themselves. The clip is over an hour and 15 minutes long, and you can watch it below. 

The man behind the company, Elon Musk, also acknowledged the mission. Musk responded to the SpaceX tweet with a still from the video, tweeting “Successful Starlink deploy.”

SpaceX noted in the launch broadcast that Starlink now offers its services in 29 countries, including recent additions of Brazil and Bulgaria. The company also worked closely with the government of Tonga to provide internet access after the island was devastated by a volcanic eruption in January.

The eruption and the tsunami that followed destroyed a disturbing amount of the area. Internet connectivity was vital in coordinating outside support and resources, which is where Starlink comes in. The eruption broke submarine cables that were providing internet connectivity to the nation in the Pacific Islands. The main cable serving Tonga is now restored. However, the country is using Starlink satellites to provide internet to outlying islands where cable repair may take months. 

After this launch, Starlink now has 1,970 satellites in orbit, a group that is much larger than any other current satellite system. SpaceX is currently seeking permission from the Federal Communications Commission to launch as many as 30,000 Starlink satellites into orbit. A number this shockingly large has certainly raised concerns and criticism from other space professionals.

A letter from NASA on February 8th laid out their concerns around SpaceX’s request. NASA voiced worry over an increased rate of close contact between Starlink satellites, as well as other space objects. Additionally, there is concern over how many satellites may interfere with satellite and ground-based science. 

However, SpaceX stands behind its proposal. On February 22nd, the company released an in-depth statement detailing its commitment to sustainability. “SpaceX has demonstrated this commitment to space safety through action, investing significant resources to ensure that all our launch vehicles, spacecraft, and satellites meet or exceed space safety regulations and best practices,” the company wrote.

They cited their design of “highly reliable, maneuverable” satellites as proof. SpaceX designed these satellites to completely break up upon re-entry and added that they will naturally re-enter within 25 years of the end of their life due to their low orbit. They also cited their use of an autonomous collision avoidance system.