A SpaceX Falcon 9 B5 rocket with a B1049.4 first-stage booster used on three previous missions will launch 60 more Starlink Internet communication small satellites (smallsats) into orbit at 9:19 p.m. EST, or 0219 GMT, Tuesday.

Mission 2 will lift off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Falcon 9 will take the v1.0 smallsats to a 500 km high Low Earth Orbit (LEO) where they will be deployed as part of the ever expanding Starlink superconstellation. They will join the 122 other Starlink smallsats already in LEO.

This massive gaggle of smallsats will number more than 12,000 by the mid-2020s. SpaceX has made known its plans to deploy 30,000 more Starlink smallsats, bringing the total number of spacecraft in its superconstellation to 42,000. The initial 12,000 satellites will orbit in three orbital shells: 1,600 will be placed in a 550 km (340 mile)-high altitude shell; 2,800 Ku- and Ka-band spectrum satellites at 1,150 km (710 miles) and 7,500 V-band satellites at 340 km (210 miles). Commercial operation for the in-orbit satellites will begin this year.

The previous Starlink launch, designated Mission 1, deployed 60 smallsats to LEO on Nov. 11, 2019. This group consisted of the first v1.0 spacecraft placed into orbit. This improved version will provide increased spectrum capacity for end-users by making full use of the Ka- and Ku-bands.

Total cost of the decade-long project to design, build and deploy this superconstellation is estimated at over $10 billion. Questions, however, are being raised if SpaceX has enough money to see this ambitious project through.

SpaceX said Starlink will become fully operational once 800 satellites are activated. Reaching this number will need a dozen more launches aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicles. SpaceX’s Starlink smallsats have a flat-panel design and each weigh about 500 kg. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in July 2019 said Starlink will offer a competitively priced alternative for people unhappy with their current internet service.

Once deployed at the target altitude, the smallsats will gradually fan out while using their thrusters to climb to their respective orbits for testing. These birds will then ascend to an operational altitude of 550 km (341 miles) at an orbital inclination of 53 degrees to the equator. It will take about an hour for the Falcon 9 rocket to deliver the 60 Starlink satellites to orbit.

SpaceX will again recover the Falcon 9’s first stage after Tuesday's nocturnal launch, along with the rocket’s payload fairing. One of the company’s three autonomous spaceport drone ships has set sail from Port Canaveral toward the landing zone in the Atlantic Ocean.

The B1049.4 first-stage booster that will be recovered was last used to launch SpaceX’s first group of 60 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral in May 2019. It debuted September 2018 with the launch of the Telstar 18 VANTAGE communications satellite from Cape Canaveral. It flew again in January 2019 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with 10 Iridium voice and data relay satellites.

Starlink satellite cluster aboard a Falcon 9
A few of the 60 Starlink satellites before deployment into LEO SpaceX
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