SpaceX has launched its first dedicated polar Starlink mission as the company moves into the next phase of deployment of its broadband satellite constellation.
A Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The rocket’s payload of 51 Starlink satellites deployed 15 and a half minutes after launch, although it took an additional 11 minutes to confirm the satellites separated as expected.
The successful liftoff marked the first time SpaceX launched a batch of operational Starlink satellites on one of its 229-foot-tall (70 meters) workhorse Falcon 9 rockets from its California launch facilities. It’s also the first dedicated Starlink flight in more than two months, which was a stark change to the regular cadence set earlier this year as SpaceX launched its own satellites almost weekly.
The launch was the first dedicated Starlink launch since May 26, although three Starlink satellites were included on the Transporter-2 rideshare mission that launched June 30. The launch was also the first dedicated launch of Starlink satellites to polar orbit.
This launch was the first of two scheduled this week by SpaceX. Another Falcon 9 will launch a Crew Dragon spacecraft on the Inspiration4 private crewed mission, with four people on board. That launch is scheduled for a five-hour window that opens September 15 at 8:02 PM Eastern from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
To date, SpaceX has delivered more than 100,000 Starlink internet terminals and the service has been approved to operate in at least 14 different countries, with applications pending in several others.