Featured Image Source: SpaceX Starlink
SpaceX is building its Starlink broadband internet network in low Earth orbit. As of today, the company has deployed 540 satellites out of thousands that will build the Starlink constellation. After several delays SpaceX teams are ready to deploy the tenth batch of Starlink satellites this weekend. This mission has been delayed around eight times, moved from June 23 to 25 and 26, Scrubbed on July 8 due to unfavorable weather conditions, then postponed on July 11 due to technical issues, and delayed from July 29 and 31. Perhaps, this is the launch that has faced the most delays in the company’s launch manifest. Now, the mission is scheduled to take place on Saturday, August 1st. A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39A at around 3:21 a.m. Eastern Time carrying a batch of 57 Starlink satellites and a pair of hitchhiking BlackSky satellites. These are small Earth observation satellites for BlackSky Global, a Seattle-based company, which will launch under SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program contract during this mission. The program allows companies with small payloads to ride alongside larger payloads for a cheaper price.
This Starlink mission will be unique compared to previous deployments because the entire fleet of 57 satellites feature ‘VisorSat’, a deployable visor that will act as a sunshade to reduce the satellite’s reflectivity. “All Starlink satellites on this flight are equipped with a deployable visor to block sunlight from hitting the brightest spots of the spacecraft – a measure SpaceX has taken as part of our work with leading astronomical groups to mitigate satellite reflectivity,” the company said. Starlink satellites look like a fleet of pearly lights flying in a train-like formation soon after deployment. When the astronomer community voiced their concerns over Starlink’s potential to interfere with their cosmic observations, SpaceX engineered solutions to minimize potential interference which will be deployed during the upcoming mission.
The mission will come as SpaceX initiates its private Starlink Beta testing phase with employees, friends, and family. Jonathan Hofeller SpaceX Vice-President of Starlink and Commercial Sales, revealed he already installed a Starlink Terminal in his home, pictured above. – “I have deployed one on my house, it’s very exciting to get one,” he told reporters. “The instructions are super-easy. You plug it in, and you point it at the sky, and a few seconds later you have internet. It’s truly remarkable.” The terminal works alongside a router device that receives the Starlink’s satellites signal from space.“The beauty of being vertically integrated both on the user terminal, the gateways and the satellite piece of it is that we are constantly updating and improving the connection between those pieces of infrastructure,” Hofeller shared. Earlier this year, SpaceX lead engineers shared they are sending network upgrades to the Starlink satellites in orbit on a weekly basis.
The company could also roll out a Starlink Beta testing phase for the public, as soon as next month. You can sign up for updates via SpaceX’s website Starlink.com. SpaceX officials said Starlink service will be offered to customers after there’s at least 800 satellites in orbit. The service will initially be offered in Canada and northern portions of the United States.