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SpaceX launch sees next-generation Starlink satellites boost space internet

SpaceX has launched the first batch of its second-generation Starlink satellites, boosting the speed and capacity of Elon Musk’s space internet network.

The 54 Gen2 Starlink satellites were launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 4.34am local time (9.34am GMT).

“This launch marks the first of Starlink’s upgraded network,” SpaceX said in a statement.

“Under our new licence, we are now able to deploy satellites to new orbits that will add even more capacity to the network. Ultimately, this enables us to add more customers and provide faster service – particularly in areas that are currently over-subscribed.”

Starlink has more than 1 million active subscribers around the world, including more than 150,000 users in Ukraine where traditional telecommunications infrastructure has been targeted by Russian forces.

Activists in Iran have also smuggled in close to 100 Starlink receivers to improve communication links amid widespread protests in the country, despite satellite dishes being illegal to own in the country.

There are now more than 3,300 Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbit, beaming high-speed internet to people on the ground.

SpaceX has plans to launch a further 7,500 Gen2 satellites after being granted approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this month. Permission for tens of thousands more was rejected.

Wednesday’s launch was the 59th successful launch of 2022 for SpaceX, marking a record-breaking year for the firm. Its previous record, set last year, was 31 launches.

SpaceX plans at least one more Starlink launch mission before the end of the year.