Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched another 60 internet satellites into orbit Saturday from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The launch was originally planned for Thursday morning, but was scrubbed at the last minute to “allow additional time for mission assurance work.”
SpaceX confirmed the successful deployment of the satellites at 9:36 a.m. California time Saturday.
The Falcon 9 rocket used for the launch has flown two previous missions, most recently in September. After the launch, SpaceX landed the rocket on a droneship floating in the Atlantic Ocean for recovery to be used again.
The mission will increase the size of the satellite array to roughly 900. Initial plans for the array call for as many as 12,000 satellites, with more than 40,000 ultimately envisioned for the full system. SpaceX also launched 60 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral last Sunday.
The Starlink system is designed to provide low-cost internet access in traditionally underserved areas around the world. The service is already being tested by some SpaceX employees, with public beta testing anticipated to begin later this year.
SpaceX this week finalized a deal with a school district in Texas to use the Starlink array to provide internet service to students and families who currently have no or limited online access. Under the agreement, 45 households in the Ector County Independent School District will receive high-speed internet access early next year. As the Starlink satellite system continues to expand, another 90 families in the district will begin receiving the internet service later in the year.
The district is based in Odessa, Texas.
According to SpaceX, many families in the district have “limited to no connectivity” to the internet.
“This issue was brought to the forefront for the school district earlier this year when COVID-19 forced school building closures and nearly two in five students did not have access to reliable high-speed internet at home,'' according to SpaceX.
The district's superintendent, Scott Muri, said the partnership is a “bold and unprecedented action'' for the district's families.
“Our research clearly indicates the lack of broadband access is a crisis in Ector County,” he said. “In collaboration with SpaceX, we are providing space-based Internet service to students and families that have few,
if any, options. ... Today, we take a giant leap forward in closing the digital divide that exists within our community.”