SpaceX launched its first 60 Starlink satellites to orbit from a Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral, just after 0230 UT 24 May 2019. Once turned up, the satellites will form the test platform for a 4349 more to follow, in a constellation designed to provide broadband Internet to the entire surface of the Earth.
The satellites deployed from the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket at about 0333 UT. Unlike most multi-satellite launches, that use complex (and heavy) deployment mechanisms with clear time and space separation between each payload, instead the entire group was released all at once – into a loose clump that will slowly drift apart.
The scale of SpaceX’s network deployment is the most ambitious of all the players in the coming satellite Internet field. Recent approval from the FCC allows for about third of the Starlink constellation to operate at about 550 km instead of earlier plans to operate at 1100+ km, which will reduce latency and the difficulty of lifting all the of satellites to altitude. However, it is also a gamble that the system will pay off sooner, as the lower orbit will require more frequent launches of replacement commsats.