The Californian space company SpaceX launched Thursday the first 60 mini-satellites of its future constellation “Starlink”, intended to provide Internet from space and which could one day have 12,000 satellites. A Falcon 9 rocket from the company created by Elon Musk lifted off without incident from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 0230 GMT, with a fairing at its top completely filled by the 60 satellites.
An hour later, the second stage of the rocket released the satellites in a cluster, at an altitude of about 450 km. They then had to separate naturally, then propel each other to an altitude of 550 km, either above the International Space Station (about 400 km) but well below most other satellites in Earth orbit, including those in geostationary orbit 36,000 km away.
The internet of space, a coveted market
The launch was originally scheduled for last week but was postponed due to winds and then computer issues. SpaceX, market leader in launches, wants to seize a share of the future space internet market, coveted by many rivals, such as the start-up OneWeb, or the giant Amazon, which is much less advanced (Kuiper project ).
Each Starlink satellite launched on Thursday weighs 227 kilograms. Elon Musk explained last week that the system will start to be truly operational with around 800 satellites, which will require a dozen more launches.