Lifting-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has lifted-off for the fourth time. This mission took place at 1456 GMT, on 11 November 2019, launching the second batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. Following on from the first launch in May 2019, which carried 60 “test” satellites, this mission carried “operational” units.
These units are reported to be a more advanced series with greater communications capacity. The satellites were also launched into an initial orbit 150 km lower than the previously used one, the idea being that if a satellite fails soon after launch it will re-enter quicker.
This mission saw the Falcon 9 first-stage, known as B1048, being used for the fourth time. This stage has previously launched an Iridium NEXT mission, Saocom-1A and Nusantara Satu. Additionally, this mission is utilising previously flown payload fairings in a first for SpaceX. These fairings were recovered following the Arabsat-6A launch, which flew on a Falcon Heavy rocket in April.
Following the launch the now “experienced” first-stage completed a successful propulsive landing on a drone ship positioned in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship used was the “Of Course I Still Love You”. SpaceX had intended to attempt to recover the payload fairings following this mission too however, the dedicated recovery ships were forced to return to port due to worsening conditions at sea.
Comment by David Todd: There is an increasing backlash against the SpaceX Starlink constellation over its light pollution aspect which may hinder astronomical observations.