Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched another batch of internet satellites into orbit Tuesday, using a rocket that had already flown a half-dozen missions.
The launch of roughly 60 internet satellites had been scheduled for Sunday night from Cape Canaveral in Florida, but it was delayed to allow for more "data reviews." The launch was then planned for 6:34 p.m. California time Monday, but that effort was scrubbed due to weather conditions.
SpaceX finally launched the rocket at 6:13 p.m. California time Tuesday, despite some gusting winds that were being carefully watched right up until liftoff.
The company has revolutionized the spaceflight industry through its system of recovering the first-stage boosters of its signature Falcon 9 rockets for reuse, slashing the costs of future missions.
The first stage of the rocket being used in Tuesday night's scheduled launch has flown six prior missions, including four previous launches of SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites, most recently in August. According to SpaceX, Tuesday's mission makes the rocket the company's ``fleet leader'' in terms of launches.
SpaceX again recovered the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, landing it on a barge named "Of Course I Still Love You'' floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was the 16th launch of satellites for the Starlink service, pushing the array to nearly 1,000 satellites overall. Initial plans for the array call for as many as 12,000 satellites, with more than 40,000 ultimately envisioned for the full system.
The Starlink system is designed to provide low-cost internet access in traditionally underserved areas around the world. The service was initially being tested by some SpaceX employees, and a public beta test -- whimsically dubbed a "Better Than Nothing Beta'' test -- began last month. Last week, SpaceX began providing the service to parts of southern Canada following a regulatory agreement with the Canadian government.
In October, SpaceX 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.