SpaceX has completed the second of a planned record four launches, sending another batch of Starlink internet satellites into low Earth orbit.
While it is the ninth launch of Starlink satellites, it is the first to include satellites from multiple companies - the first-ever Rideshare launch, part of a series that will help bring satellites from companies like Planet Labs, Exolaunch and Momentus Space into Earth orbit.
The Rideshare Mission program aims to provide a “flexible, low-cost” method of transporting satellites to low Earth orbit, according to NasaSpaceflight.com.
The Saturday launch saw a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 58 Starlink satellites as well as 3 Planet Labs Inc. satellites. SpaceX has already carried a number of satellites into space for the likes of Planet Labs before, but the Rideshare Mission launches will see more trips in a greater frequency.
The launch took place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Saturday morning, with the sky so clear that the glow from the rockets engines were visible throughout the launch. The re-usable Falcon 9 booster used on Saturday already had two flights to its name.
Starlink launch missions have brought a total of 540 satellites into low Earth orbit so far. Additional missions will continue to grow SpaceX’s “constellation” of internet satellites to have a total of 1,584 satellites in orbit by the end of the current phase.
CEO Elon Musk established the Starlink project to create a low-cost global broadband network. SpaceX originally announced plans to create the Starlink network in 2015, with plans to carry up to 50% of all backhaul communications traffic and up to 10% of local internet traffic.
SpaceX recently completed its first manned launch on May 30, marking the first time a private company - rather than a government - has launched astronauts into space. President Trump called the launch America's "bold and triumphant return to the stars."
Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken then completed a 19-hour journey to the International Space Station while the Falcon 9 rocket used to launch them returned to a drone ship in the Atlantic.