SpaceX puts up 60 internet satellites

A Falcon-9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida late on Thursday, packed with 60 satellites capable of giving users on the ground high-speed connections to the internet.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk's firm aims eventually to loft nearly 12,000 spacecraft for its "Starlink" network.

SpaceX is one of several commercial outfits with permission to fly an internet mega-constellation.

Others include the UK-based start-up OneWeb, which began its roll-out in February with six operational spacecraft.

Online retailer Amazon also has ambitions in this market. It's working on a 3,200-satellite proposal known as Project Kuiper.

All the concepts envisage flying spacecraft in a low-Earth orbit less than 2,000km above the planet. This will minimise the delay, or latency, in the internet connections.

The Falcon lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 22:30 local time (02:30 GMT, Friday).

Deployment of the Starlink satellites was successfully completed just over an hour into the flight, SpaceX announced.

SpaceX has kept secret much of the development activity on its multi-billion-dollar broadband plan.

Each satellite weighs 227kg, has multiple high-throughput antennas and a single solar array, the SpaceX CEO explained in a briefing last week.

The platforms are also equipped with electric propulsion - a system that expels electrically charged atoms of krypton to provide thrust.

The engine is needed to lift a Starlink from its drop-off altitude of 440km to its operational height of 550km.

The propulsion system will also act to maintain the satellite's correct position in the sky, and to bring it down at the end of its service life.

Mr Musk said the newly launched Starlinks were an iterative design and later platforms would have a higher specification, featuring for example inter-satellite links.

It was "one of the hardest engineering projects I've ever seen done," he said, and cautioned that much could go wrong in the early phases of the roll-out.

Sources: BBC news