A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Pad 39A, as seen through the ruins of the abandoned Launch Complex 34. (Fox Photo)
Cape Canaveral, Flat – A dramatic sunset launch sent 40 Internet satellites into orbit while lighting up the Florida sky on Thursday.
A Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center just before 5:30 p.m., lighting up the dusk and leaving behind a bright white exhaust plume. Minutes later, the crack of the triple sonic boom shook the shore as the booster stage returned for landing.
It was another routine mission for SpaceX, which launched more than 3,000 small satellites into space as the company built its Starlink Internet constellation.
But this time, the payload belonged to a Starlink competitor, OneWeb.
The two companies are building a network of satellites in low Earth orbit with the goal of providing Internet service to anyone around the world from space. But while Starlink focuses on consumers, OneWeb says its focus is on businesses.
Financial problems and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have slowed OneWeb’s efforts. The company used Russian Soyuz rockets to launch its satellites; The invasion and subsequent sanctions forced them to look for alternatives, and – for the first time – SpaceX.
Amazon, meanwhile, is planning its own network of Internet-beaming satellites, known as Project Kuiper. Their first launch is scheduled for early next year on United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket, but is expected to switch later to rockets made by Blue Origin, the company founded and run by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The Falcon 9’s first stage begins its landing burn. (Fox Photo)
It’s been a busy year around Cape Canaveral, seeing everything from the return of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy to the long-awaited launch of NASA’s SLS moon rocket. But it’s not over yet; SpaceX has a few more launches before the end of the year, including the launch of ispace’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1, the first privately manned Japanese mission to land on the lunar surface.
That mission is scheduled to blast off early Sunday morning and, like Thursday’s flight, will involve a beachside landing — a sonic boom that offers a 2 a.m. wakeup call to Space Coast neighbors who don’t want to wake up for the launch.
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