SpaceX possesses the largest satellite constellation in the world with 420 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit, and two prototypes. Starlink will beam low latency, high-speed broadband internet globally. The network will consist of over 12,000 satellites that will feature advanced technology to communicate with each other to allocate signal to areas at the speed of light. The company aims to provide internet connection to areas around the world where internet is unreliable and non-existent. SpaceX officials say their service will benefit rural areas. Tonight, SpaceX will launch its next fleet of 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit, after two weeks of weather delays and the company's historic first astronaut flight. SpaceX announced this morning:
“Targeting today, June 3 at 9:25 p.m. EDT for Falcon 9 launch of 60 Starlink satellites from SLC-40. Weather is 60% favorable, and webcast will go live about 10 minutes before liftoff.”
Targeting today, June 3 at 9:25 p.m. EDT for Falcon 9 launch of 60 Starlink satellites from SLC-40. Weather is 60% favorable, and webcast will go live about 10 minutes before liftoff https://t.co/bJFjLCzWdK— SpaceX (@SpaceX) June 3, 2020
The Falcon 9 rocket that will deploy satellites was previously flown 4 times. “The first stage rocket booster supporting this mission previously launched two Starlink missions, as well as the Iridium-8 and Telstar 18 VANTAGE missions,” SpaceX shared. It's the second time SpaceX will launch a booster 5 times.
Tonight, the Falcon 9 will ignite its nine Merlin engines for a 5th mission to space. It will lift off at 9:25 p.m. Eastern Time, from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. If weather affects the launch, a back-up launch opportunity is scheduled for June 4th.
You can watch the launch Live in the video below, courtesy of SpaceX.
The Falcon 9 that will fly in a couple of hours, is expected to be recovered a fifth time. The company recovers the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster by performing vertical landings on autonomous drone ships at sea. The autonomous drone ship called Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) has departed Port Canaveral, Florida, to support the booster landing. If the booster lands successfully nine minutes after tonight’s liftoff, it will mark the 54th orbital-class booster landing, and the first time SpaceX recovers a Falcon 9 booster for a 5th time. Recovering rockets reduces manufacturing and operational costs. SpaceX is currently the only company in the world that has the capability to return its rocket's from space.
SpaceX will also attempt to recover the rocket’s payload fairing. Approximately 45 minutes after liftoff, the fairings will conduct a parachute assisted landing in the ocean, where two fairing recovery vessels, called “Ms. Tree” and “Ms. Chief,” will attempt to recover the two fairing halves. Recovering the fairing to reuse is a relatively new concept, if the recovery is successful it can save the company about $6 million.
During this Starlink mission, SpaceX will deploy an experimental ‘VisorSat’ which is a satellite that will feature a sunshade visor. This is to address astronomers concerns over the constellation being “too bright” in the night sky. Engineers will test if the VisorSat can block sunlight from reaching the shiniest parts of the flat-panel spacecraft to make them less reflective and visible from the ground. If the VisorSat feature works well, SpaceX will deploy an entire fleet of satellites with visors.
“The Starlink satellites will deploy in an elliptical orbit approximately 15 minutes after liftoff. Prior to orbit raise, SpaceX engineers will conduct data reviews to ensure all Starlink satellites are operating as intended. Once the checkouts are complete, the satellites will then use their onboard ion thrusters to move into their operational altitude of 550 km [kilometers],” the company explains.
Customers will receive Starlink broadband internet connection via a user terminal that looks like a “UFO on a stick,” according to SpaceX officials. The Federal Communications Commission already approved the operation of one million user terminals in the United States. SpaceX aims to roll out service in northern parts of the United States and portions of Canada by the end of the year.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.