SpaceX launches another group of Starlink satellites

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a new fleet of Starlink internet satellites into orbit alongside two rideshare satellites Saturday evening (May 15), before landing at sea.

The  Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center here in Florida at 6:56 p.m. EDT (2056 GMT), marking the company’s 15th launch of the year. It also marked the eighth flight for this particular Falcon 9.

The successful liftoff marked the third time SpaceX launched one of its 229-foot-tall (70 meters) workhorse Falcon 9 rockets within as many weeks, as the company works to expand its burgeoning broadband constellation. 

SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation was created in order to provide internet coverage to the world while serving as a means to fund its deep space ambitions. To that end, company engineers designed a fleet of flat-paneled broadband satellites to fly over the Earth, beaming down internet coverage to users who can access the service via a compact user terminal. 

The company is targeting users in remote or rural areas who currently have little-to-no internet connectivity, but users all around the globe can subscribe to the service. 

With Saturday’s successful launch, SpaceX has lofted more than 1,600 Starlink satellites into orbit, which goes beyond the company’s initial quota of 1,440. The company has official approval for thousands more and is expected to roll out full commercial service later this year.

Currently, Starlink is still in its beta-testing phase with users around the world putting the service through its paces. The company has also opened up its website to begin taking preorders and says that so far more than 500,000 users have signed up.