CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Five dozen satellites were on their way to Earth's orbit after SpaceX's heaviest payload to date launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Monday morning.
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It's been a three-month drought for SpaceX since it last launched a rocket. The launch Monday morning was part of an ongoing mission called Starlink, which aims to form a constellation of satellites to provide broadband internet services around the world.
Monday's Falcon 9 rocket had 60 more satellites onboard. The satellites are small and tucked into the payload fairing, or nose cone.
In May, a rocket carried 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. According to government filings, SpaceX aims to eventually have more than 42,000 of these Starlink satellites in orbit. CEO Elon Musk says it could help bring internet access to remote and poorer regions of the world.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched 60 satellites on Monday morning, making it the heaviest payload to date and hoping to provide internet service to all around the globe.— Spectrum News 13 (@MyNews13) November 11, 2019
Watch the complete launch here: https://t.co/CX1e9QiIaR pic.twitter.com/MPXRAa3Kb8
The mission, however, isn't without controversy: All those satellites have astronomers concerned about what it will mean for the nighttime sky.
"We're focusing on all sky surveys and looking for things that change in the night, and when there's a lot of satellites and constellations of satellites, that actually does show up in our observations, and it can lead us to misidentify something that's actually not man-made vs. something that's astronomical," said Saida Caballero, director of Florida Tech's Olin Observatory.
Musk has said SpaceX is working to reduce the brightness of the satellites to limit light pollution.
Monday's launch marked the first time SpaceX had reused a payload fairing. The nose cone had already launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket earlier this year. Parachutes were used to glide the fairings down to boats waiting in the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition, this was the first time a Falcon 9 rocket booster had launched for a fourth time. Following stage separation, SpaceX recovered the booster and the two fairing halves out in the ocean.
Falcon 9 first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship – the fourth launch and landing of this booster pic.twitter.com/qQvH7pwMDO— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2019
SpaceX tries to recover the booster and nose cone in an attempt to reuse them and drive down the cost of launches.
The company said if one of the Starlink satellites doesn't go into the proper orbit, it would burn up in the atmosphere.
The next scheduled launch is set for 12:48 p.m. ET December 4. A Space X Dragon spacecraft will head up on a Falcon 9 on the 19th International Space Station cargo resupply mission for NASA.