SpaceX is building the world's most advanced Starlink broadband satellite infrastructure to provide high-speed internet access globally. The Starlink constellation will consist of at least 12,000 satellites operating in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The company is working to deploy Phase 1 of the Starlink constellation which consists of launching 4,408 Starlink satellites and arranging them into five orbital ‘shells’ each with different orbital parameters, details shown in the table below. To date, SpaceX has launched a total of 2,804 satellites that operate across Shell 1, Shell 2, and Shell 4. However, only 2,552 satellites remain in orbit since 2019 according to data by Astronomer Jonathan McDowell.
Source: Table compiled by Tesmanian.com
On July 10, SpaceX launched Starlink satellites into a new orbital shell in Polar Orbit. The 53 Satellites in this batch are part of the Group 3-1 mission, which are the first satellites deployed into Shell 3, that consists of arranging a total of 348 satellites satellites into 6 orbital planes with 58 satellites in each plane operating at an equatorial inclination of 97.6° degrees and altitude of 560-kilometers (km). Around 10 launches will be required to fill out Shell 3. "These polar launches will enable complete coverage of Earth (where approved by local government)," shared SpaceX founder Elon Musk via Twitter. Starlink satellites operating in Polar Orbit will enable high-speed internet in extremely remote regions, including Alaska. SpaceX launched 10 Starlink satellites to Polar Orbit last year that feature inter-satellite communication laser links that enables internet service without the need of ground stations. All satellites SpaceX launched this year feature the laser-link technology.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/bojQcPXiZC— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 11, 2022
A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket, identified as first-stage booster B1063-6, conducted the Starlink Group 3-1 mission. It lifted off a sixth time on Sunday at 9:39 p.m. ET from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base's Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E). Approximately eight and a half minutes after liftoff, the first-stage returned to Earth and landed on the 'Of Course I Still Love You' droneship which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean. It marked SpaceX’s 128th landing of an orbital-class rocket and the 101 mission thag utilized a previously-flown booster.
These polar launches will enable complete coverage of Earth (where approved by local government) https://t.co/0ssHobwdp3— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2022
B1063-6 is a veteran of five previous launches. First, it launched NASA's Sentinel-6A Michael Freilich mission in November 2020 and the Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) in November 2021. It also deployed three Starlink missions. Rocket reusability enables SpaceX to perform frequent rocket flights. The company has been launching payloads to orbit at an average rate of once per week since the year started.
SpaceX already provides internet access to over 500,000 subscribers living across 36 countries. The company recently received approval to operate Starlink aboard moving vehicles, including sea-going vessels, airplanes, trucks, and RVs. Read more: SpaceX releases Starlink Maritime service to connect sea-going vessels in the most remote waters in the world
Featured Image Source: SpaceX