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SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites

After experiencing two sets of delays last week, SpaceX on Thursday launched 60 Starlink satellites that will be used for its home broadband constellation.  

The 60 satellites were launched inside a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

According to SpaceX, the satellites are capable of tracking on-orbit debris to autonomously avoid collisions and 95% of their components will be burnt in Earth's atmosphere at the end of their life cycles.

Each Starlink satellite weighs around 500 pounds.  

The payload weighs around 30,000 pounds, which is the heaviest payload that has been delivered by a Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk noted last week that the 60 satellites are demonstration satellites that are missing the equipment to link up as a mesh network, unlike its Tintin A and B demo satellites that were launched early last year.

The launch was initially planned for last Wednesday, but was postponed due to strong winds in the upper atmosphere, SpaceX software engineer Tom Praderio said at the time. 

The second attempt, which was scheduled for the day after, was also cancelled as the company wanted to re-check its systems before launching the satellites. 

"Standing down to update satellite software and triple-check everything again. Always want to do everything we can on the ground to maximise mission success, next launch opportunity in about a week," SpaceX said on Twitter.

Read more: Here are SpaceX's first 60 Starlink internet-beaming satellites

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had given authorisation in November for SpaceX to launch over 7,000 satellites into orbit for the home broadband constellation. The approval was in addition to SpaceX receiving the FCC's authorisation to launch 4,425 satellites in March last year.

Space X's plan would be for the Starlink network to eventually consist of almost 12,000 satellites to deliver 1Gbps speeds to users on Earth.

Since then, the FCC has given authorisation for SpaceX to reduce the number of satellites for the initial set of authorisations, from 4,425 down to 4,409, as well as permitted it to operate at a lower orbital altitude than previously allowed.

While originally slated to operate at an altitude of 1,150km, 1,584 of Musk's SpaceX satellites will now be allowed to operate at 550km, with related changes to their operations also granted.

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