Crowds gathered Thursday afternoon along state road 528 to witness SpaceX launched its 7th batch of Starlink satellites. The Falcon 9 launched from pad 39A at 3:31 pm EST carrying the rocket companies proprietary broadband satellites to orbit, adding them to their growing constellation.
The first stage booster, previously flown for the RADARSAT and Demo 1 missions, flew for the 4th time today and successfully touched down on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You. The protective fairing halves had also previously flown on the AMOS 17 mission, with one half having been successfully caught by the SpaceX ship Ms. Chief and the other plucked from the water. Soot covered the first stage sitting below the pristine white second stage, evidence of SpaceX's commitment to reuse hardware and cut cost on launches.
The Starlink program has been the talking point of many astronomers in recent months. There is a large and increasingly vocal group of astronomers calling for SpaceX to decrease the visibility of the satellites in the night sky. During the live broadcast, a spokesperson for SpaceX noted that the company was developing new methods to reduce the level of light reflection seen from earth. During the satellites maneuver into their correct orbit, SpaceX will tilt the 60 satellite solar panels, directing their reflection away from earth.
Across the country, people are hunkering down as the coronavirus cases steadily increase. Nearly every state has implemented some lockdown procedures. Still, people brought out their lawn chairs and sat in the back of pickup trucks, with surgical masks on their faces, to witness a rocket launch.