SpaceX conducted its first rocket launch of 2022 on Thursday, sending its first batch of Starlink internet satellites into low-Earth orbit since December 18.
The mission got underway shortly before 5 p.m. ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
As usual, the private space company, led by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, live-streamed the main parts of the mission, including the all-important launch.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 6, 2022
This was followed several minutes later by stage separation.
About nine minutes after launch, the booster made a perfect upright landing on a drone ship, which was waiting in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida.
SpaceX later confirmed, via Twitter, that the latest batch of 49 Starlink satellites had successfully been deployed.
Starlink internet service
During Thursday’s livestream, SpaceX revealed that it now has around 145,000 Starlink customers in 25 countries — up from 140,000 users in November.
For the broadband-from-space service, customers in the U.S. pay $499 for the dish and other hardware and $99 a month for the internet service. Shipping and handling cost $50, with tax coming in at about $33.
After adding around 10,000 new customers each month since the launch of the service in October 2020, growth has clearly slowed dramatically recently with only 5,000 new customers added over the last couple of months.
This is likely due to global silicon shortages that have affected SpaceX’s ability to build its equipment and fulfill orders in a more timely fashion.
Toward the end of last year, SpaceX apologized to customers who were waiting longer than expected for their Starlink gear to arrive.
“We apologize for the delay and are working hard across our engineering, supply chain, and production teams to improve and streamline our product and factory to increase our production rate,” the company said at the time.
SpaceX is aiming to expand Starlink to 45 additional countries by the end of this year, subject to regulatory approval, as well as its ability to ramp up production of the necessary kit.