SpaceX Launches Starlink, Inmarsat Satellites

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Starlink satellites from California. Image credit: SpaceX

SpaceX launches latest tranche of Starlink satellites back-to-back with launch of Inmarsat high-orbit connectivity spacecraft

SpaceX said it has successfully launched 51 more Starlink broadband internet satellites, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he has had “conversations” with the company about the use of Starlink in Ukraine.

The Starlink launch was one of two SpaceX missions that took place on Friday less than nine hours apart, one on either coast of the United States.

The internet satellites lifted off atop a Falcon 9 booster rocket at 1912 GMT from Vandenberg Space Force Base, north of Los Angeles, and the rocket’s first stage returned to Earth just under nine minutes later to land on the the SpaceX droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed off the California coast.

The Falcon 9’s upper stage deployed the satellites into low Earth orbit about 15 minutes after liftoff.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches an Inmarsat satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Image credit: SpaceX
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches an Inmarsat satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Image credit: SpaceX

Back-to-back launches

The second SpaceX launch of the day took place at 0359 GMT on Saturday morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida, carrying the I-6 F2 satellite into orbit for Inmarsat.

The satellite headed for a geostationary orbit 22,000 miles above the Earth to provide connectivity to ships and aircraft in the Atlantic Ocean region, according to Inmarsat.

Inmarsat in December 2021 launched the first I-6 satellite, I-6 F1, aboard a Japanese H-IIA rocket to provide connectivity to vessels in the Indian Ocean region.

SpaceX has already launched 12 missions so far this year, and has plans for up to 100.

It has now launched nearly 4,000 Starlink satellites into orbit with permission to launch 12,000. The company has applied to launch another 30,000 on top of that.

Starlink in Ukraine

US Secretary of State Blinken said in an interview with NBC News on Sunday that the government had had discussions with SpaceX about the use of Starlink in Ukraine, but that he couldn’t give details.

“I can’t share any conversations we’ve had other than to say we’ve had conversations,” he said.

SpaceX has provided terminals to Ukraine to support military forces during the conflict with Russia, but said earlier this month it had taken steps to prevent Ukraine’s military from using the service to control drones.

On the NBC programme Blinken was asked whether the US had asked SpaceX chief Elon Musk not to restrict the Ukraine military’s use of Starlink.