After weeks of delay and multiple canceled attempts, SpaceX finally launched its latest batch of Starlink satellites early Friday morning from the Kennedy Space Center, adding another 57 satellites to the rocket company’s growing internet-beaming constellation.
SpaceX’s Friday launch sent up the 10th batch of Starlink satellites, a number that does not include two “Tintin” test satellites launched in February 2018. To date, the Elon Musk-owned space company has deployed 595 Starlink satellites into Earth orbit. About 500 of them are functioning, making the constellation large enough to provide internet service to some locations on Earth.
Select users in the U.S. and Canada will be able to test the service as soon as this summer, SpaceX recently said. The company plans to provide basic internet access in North America by the end of this year and achieve global coverage, which would require about 14 more launches, by 2021.
SpaceX has planned two more launches in August and a third mission in September. Here’s what they’ve done so far:
Past Starlink Missions and Payload
Mission Tintin on February 22, 2018: two test Starlink satellites, Tintin A and Tintin B
Mission v0.9 on May 24, 2019: 60 Starlink satellites
Mission v1.0 L1 on November 11, 2019: 60 Starlink satellites
Mission v1.0 L2 on January 7, 2020: 60 Starlink satellites
Mission v1.0 L3 on January 29, 2020: 60 Starlink satellites
Mission v1.0 L4 on February 17, 2020: 60 Starlink satellites
Mission v1.0 L5 on March 18, 2020: 60 Starlink satellites
Mission v1.0 L6 on April 22, 2020: 60 Starlink satellites
Mission v1.0 L7 on June 4, 2020: 60 Starlink satellites (including a test “VisorSat” that wears a sunshade to reduce brightness.)
Mission v1.0 L8 on June 13, 2020: 58 Starlink satellites plus three Planet Labs, SkySats 16-18 Earth-observation satellites as part of SpaceX’s new rideshare program.
Mission v1.0 L9 on August 7, 2020: 57 Starlink satellites plus two geospatial intelligence satellites (BlackSky Global 7 and 8) made by Spaceflight Industries, Inc.
How to See Starlink Satellites in the Sky
Early in the Starlink mission, the brightness of those satellites caused concern for astronomers because they would sometimes block scientific observation. To address that problem, SpaceX added a sunlight-blocking visor on top of all satellites starting June 13. That first batch of “VisorSat” are still reaching their operational orbit. The 57 satellites in Friday’s payload are also equipped with visors.
That means only satellites launched before June 13 have a chance of being seen with the naked eye. As with most stargazing activities, your best chance to see Starlink is about 30 minutes before sunrise or 30 minutes after sunset. They should appear as a string of pearls moving across the night sky.