Aug. 7 (UPI) — SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket loaded with 57 Starlink satellites and two small customer satellites from Florida early Friday after the mission was delayed several times due to weather and technical issues.
Liftoff occurred as scheduled at 1:12 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. Elon Musk’s SpaceX owns the Starlink communication satellites; the additional two payloads are Earth observation satellites for Seattle-based BlackSky Global.
SpaceX had delayed the launch at least four times due to weather or technical issues, and the launch Friday had a 30% chance that storm clouds or showers could have postponed its liftoff until Saturday.
Friday’s launch increased the total number of Starlink spacecraft in orbit to 595, as SpaceX prepares to roll out broader testing of the network’s broadband Internet service.
The mission was the 10th for SpaceX’s Starlink since May 2019. The frequent pace of launches means SpaceX can carry other ride-sharing customers, such as BlackSky, for revenue.
SpaceX launched three small imaging satellites for San Francisco-based Planet, formerly Planet Labs, in mid-June.
SpaceX has planned 30 rocket launches in 2020 and 2021 that can accommodate other small satellites.
BlackSky offers images and monitoring from space for industries that include defense, energy, construction and research. The firm obtained a $50 million investment in 2019 from Luxembourg-based Intelsat, a communications satellite service, to build its new constellation of Earth-imaging satellites.
The successful launch boosted BlackSky’s space network to six satellites, with a short-term goal of 16 satellites in orbit. They weigh about 120 pounds each and are designed to last only a few years before they need replacement.