SpaceX has successfully launched more 60 Starlink internet satellites today for 1,145 in total, pushing it close to its initial target of 1,440. Although in a slight miss, the Falcon 9’s first stage booster didn’t land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship, presumably falling into the ocean instead.
“It is unfortunate that we did not recover this booster but our second stage is still on a nominal trajectory,” Jessica Anderson, SpaceX engineer said.
SpaceX hasn’t said what exactly happened to the booster (B1059), it looks like it encountered an issue close to the end of its landing burn. It had already flown two ISS resupply missions, launched a US spy satellite and Argentina’s Earth-observing satellite, and boosted another Starlink mission.
Although B1059 failed to return for its sixth mission, SpaceX has always believed that the primary launch mission is major and the landings are more or less a bonus.
B1059 failure notwithstanding, SpaceX may launch another 60 Starlink satellites on Wednesday. The company CEO Elon Musk said around 500-800 satellites need to be in orbit before its internet service begins.
Though the initial plan was to start with 1,440 satellites, SpaceX now intends to launch 12,000 in total.
Public beta tests for Starlink internet began in late 2020 for people in the US, Canada, and the UK, with more than 10,000 customers already using the service in the span of three months, according to a SpaceX FCC filing.
SpaceX has started taking $99 deposits for the service and recently told the Australian government that it would be able to cover the main continent in early 2021 and external territories by 2022.