SpaceX has launched 60 mini-satellites, the second batch of an orbiting network meant to provide global internet coverage.
The Falcon rocket blasted into the morning sky over Florida, marking the unprecedented fourth flight of a booster for SpaceX.
The compact flat-panel satellites – weighing around 260kg – will join 60 launched in May.
SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk wants to put thousands of these Starlink satellites in orbit, to offer high-speed internet service everywhere.
He plans to start the service next year in the northern US and Canada, with global coverage for populated areas after 24 launches.
Read more about the Falcon rockets:
Last month, Musk used an orbiting Starlink satellite to send a tweet: “Whoa, it worked!!”
Employees gathered at company bases on both coasts cheered when the first-stage booster landed on a floating platform in the Atlantic.
“These boosters are designed to be used 10 times. Let’s turn it around for a fifth, guys,” said the company’s launch commentator.
This also marked the first time SpaceX used a previously flown nose cone. The California-based company reuses rocket parts to cut costs.
Each satellite has an autonomous system for dodging space junk. In September, however, the European Space Agency had to move one of its satellites out of the way of a Starlink satellite. SpaceX later said it corrected the problem.
SpaceX is among several companies interested in providing broadband internet coverage worldwide, especially in areas where it costs too much or is unreliable. Others include OneWeb and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.
Why the controversy around Starlink?
The first potential issue that has been raised is that there are already something like 5,000 satellites in low Earth orbit, significantly adding to this number could increase the risk of collisions and the possibility of debris falling to Earth.
SpaceX says that as the satellites are designed to disintegrate when they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere this shouldn’t be a problem.