The Falcon 9 booster successfully landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, after being used in two previous SpaceX launches. The spaceflight will be broadcast via the space company's website and YouTube.
Sixty of the spacecraft will be placed aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, which will blast off into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Thursday, May 23. According to SpaceX's VP Mark Juncosa, around 12 launches of Starlink will give it complete coverage of United while 24 will help to cover most of the world's population while 30 launches will be enough for it to cover the entire planet.
SpaceX has previously estimated that its proposed Starlink array could involve as many as 12,000 satellites in varying orbits to provide global internet coverage, with the project taking at least a decade to implement.
SpaceX said it would probably take another day to learn whether all the satellites deployed were functioning properly.
To this end, any issues encountered with this first round of Starlink satellites will not be classed as failures by SpaceX but rather as areas to learn from that are "key to developing an affordable and reliable broadband service in the future".
The first phase of the Starlink deployment plan will see 1,584 satellites in 550 km orbits inclined 53° to the equator and spread out across 40 different orbital planes of 66 Starlinks per plane.
Starlink and Falcon 9 are looking good, and winds are better for tonight's launch.
SpaceX will need another six missions, Musk said, before Starlink can provide consistent internet coverage for small parts of the world. Later sub-constellations are planned for 1,200km and the very low 340km orbital altitude, bringing the final constellation size to almost 12,000 satellites. Each weighs about 500 pounds (227 kg), making them the heaviest payload carried aloft by SpaceX to date.
Musk is only tepidly optimistic that Starlink will be a success.
The Falcon 9 rocket and payload rumbled aloft at 10:30pm local time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
In each network, the tiny satellites orbit closer to Earth than traditional communications satellites, a technological shift made possible by advances in laser technology and computer chips.
From the pad @NASASpaceflight update. OneWeb, which is backed by Richard Branson's Virgin and Qualcomm, launched its first six satellites on February 27, off the back of Arianespace's Russian Soyuz-2. They will then use onboard propulsion to reach an operational altitude of 550km, SpaceX says.