SpaceX launches small satellites ahead of Starlink


SpaceX has successfully completed another launch, this time of a Spanish radar satellite called Paz, and two smaller satellites which are the most recent step towards Elon Musk's planned low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation.

Musk's Starlink plan will see 4,425 interlinked satellites launched into orbit 700-800 miles above the Earth, in addition to 7,500 more satellites into lower orbits. The constellation, which will provide global Internet coverage, has yet to be approved by the FCC.

The Falcon 9 delivered the Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b satellites into orbit in order to test certain aspects of Starlink.

The launch was delayed three times from its initial scheduled date of 17 February, first to provide extra time to check out launch systems and an upgraded fairing, and then because of high-altitude winds. The Falcon 9 rocket was not recovered, having previously flown on a mission in August 2017 and recovered to be reused for this launch.

Notable for this launch, SpaceX deployed its new giant-net-on-a-boat setup that was announced earlier this month, in an attempt to catch the nose cone that protects the payload during ascent. It remains to be announced whether this attempt was successful.

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