Hawthorne-based SpaceX Thursday launched a trio of satellites aboard a rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, including two that are part of a demonstration project for a proposed space-based internet system.

The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket was originally set for last Saturday, but it was delayed until Sunday, then to Wednesday — with Wednesday’s postponement attributed to weather.

Thursday morning’s liftoff took place at 6:17 a.m.

The Falcon 9 rocket’s primary payload was a Spanish-government Paz satellite, but the rocket also deployed a pair of demonstration satellites that are part of SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s vision to create a space-based broadband network providing worldwide affordable internet access.

Musk posted a video of the satellites being deployed on his social media accounts, dubbing them “Tintin A & B.” He said the satellites were successfully deployed and “communicating with Earth relay stations.”

Musk’s envisioned “Starlink” array would include up to nearly 12,000 satellites circling Earth in a low orbit within about six years, creating a worldwide internet system.

The Falcon 9 rocket in Thursday’s mission was previously used in an August launch, then successfully recovered for use in future missions. SpaceX, which has been perfecting the system of recovering rockets to reduce mission costs, did not attempt to recover the rocket again Thursday.

The company did attempt to recover the fairing, or nosecone, of the rocket using a large ship that Musk dubbed Mr. Steven, which was outfitted with a large netting that he called “basically a giant catcher’s mitt.” The boat missed catching the nosecone “by a few hundred meters,” Musk reported, but the fairing did land intact in the water thanks to parachutes that deployed after it reentered Earth’s atmosphere and eased its splash into the ocean.

—City News Service

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