Fifth Batch of Starlink Satellites Launched by SpaceX; Takes Total to 302 Satellites

Fifth Batch of Starlink Satellites Launched by SpaceX; Takes Total to 302 Satellites

According to the company, all the 60 satellites were deployed at an altitude of 227 kilometers and will be using onboard electric propulsion to reach their target 550-kilometer circular orbit. The current drop-offs were about 70 kilometers lower than the targeted orbit. Future Starlink deployments will continue to use the lower drop-off point in order to shorten the mission and ease the load on the rocket

FREMONT, CA: SpaceX completed its fifth dedicated satellite launch on February 17, 2020, launching 60 satellites into Lower Earth Orbit (LEO). The company, however, missed the booster recovery in what would have been its 50th booster recovery. The payload was launched onboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on a mission profile that differed from past Starlink launches. Instead of following the circular order for deployment, the company launched the satellites a little lower than the previous launches into the lower end of an elliptical orbit, eliminating the need to fire the rocket's upper stage a second time.

According to the company, all the 60 satellites were deployed at an altitude of 227 kilometers and will be using onboard electric propulsion to reach their target 550-kilometer circular orbit. The current drop-offs were about 70 kilometers lower than the targeted orbit. Future Starlink deployments will continue to use the lower drop-off point in order to shorten the mission and ease the load on the rocket. Despite the reduced workload, Falcon 9's reusable first-stage booster was unable to make a return to the drone ship, Of Course, I Still Love You, splashing down into the Atlantic Ocean.

The company previously used the booster for three missions, two resupply missions to the International Space Center, and the December launch of the JCSAT-18/Kacific-1 communications satellite. According to Starlink satellite engineer, Lauren Lyons stated that the launch on February 17 marked the fastest turnaround to date for reusable booster technology.

The Elon Musk owned company has now launched a total of 302 Starlink satellites, including the two prototypes launched in 2018. The company has slated 24 Starlink satellite launches this year and plans to roll out regional services in Canada and the North American region. SpaceX is also aiming to achieve global coverage by 2021.

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