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SpaceX successfully launched another 60 Starlink internet satellites today for 1,145 in total, bringing it close to its initial goal of 1,440. However, in a rare miss, the Falcon 9’s first stage booster failed to 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,” said SpaceX engineer Jessica Anderson.
SpaceX has yet to say what happened to the booster (B1059, RIP), but it appeared to encounter an issue near 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. While B1059 failed to come home for its sixth mission, SpaceX has always said that the primary launch mission is key and the landings are more or less a bonus.
Despite the failure, SpaceX may launch another 60 Starlink satellites as early as this Wednesday. Elon Musk said that around 500-800 satellites would need to be in orbit before its internet service could roll out. While the initial goal was around 1,440 satellites, SpaceX eventually plans 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.