SpaceX has launched another batch of Starlink satellites, continuing its rapid pace of launches for the broadband constellation it deploys in low Earth orbit. That’s now 300 Starlink satellites launched since March 4, including 60 on each of the five flights from now until today.
The most recent launch before this was on March 24, with previous flights on March 14, March 11, and March 4. This pace is intentionally rapid, as SpaceX has announced plans to launch a total of 1,500 Starlink satellites during this calendar year. Ahead of this particularly busy month, SpaceX also completed four other Starlink missions, including a shared ride on SpaceX’s first dedicated ride-sharing mission that also carried satellites for other customers.
In total, SpaceX has now launched 1,443 satellites for its Starlink constellation. This does not reflect the total number of orbiting satellites, however, as a handful of those earlier satellites were desorbed as expected. In total, the eventual predicted size of the constellation is expected to include up to 42,000 spacecraft based on current FCC frequency spectrum deposits.
SpaceX recently signed a new agreement with NASA that describes how the two organizations will avoid close-approach or collision events between their respective spacecraft. NASA has measures that it requires all launchers to follow in order to avoid these types of incidents, but the scale and frequency of SpaceX’s Starlink missions required a more extensive additional agreement.
This launch also included a landing of the used Falcon 9 booster, its seventh to date. The booster landed as planned on SpaceX’s floating landing pad in the Atlantic Ocean and will be refurbished for another potential reuse. SpaceX will also be looking to salvage its offshore fairing halves, which are the two cargo shields that wrap around satellites during takeoff. The company has in fact just decommissioned two ships it had used to try to catch them in the air as they were falling, slowed down by parachutes, but it is still looking to retrieve them from the ocean after the splash to reuse them.