SpaceX’s First West Coast Starlink Mission Launches 51 Starlink Satellites With 'Space Lasers'

SpaceX’s First West Coast Starlink Mission Launches 51 Starlink Satellites With 'Space Lasers'

On September 13, a previously-flown Falcon 9 launched SpaceX’s first Starlink mission from the West Coast, known as ‘Starlink Group 2-1’. It is the company’s 29th operational mission dedicated to building the Starlink constellation. The rocket blasted off at 8:55 p.m. PDT (11:55 p.m. EDT) from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E), carrying the first batch of 51 internet-beaming Starlink satellites equipped with inter-satellite communication laser links to orbit.

SpaceX called the feature ‘space lasers’ during the mission’s live broadcast. The lasers enable the fleet to operate without the need to directly communicate with a ground station (data center) on Earth. Instead, the satellites will beam data to one another via the laser links which enables a much faster data transfer rate (high-speed internet) to users on the ground because light travels faster in the vacuum of space than through fiber-optic cables. “[…] Data packets do not need to touch regular Internet – data can flow from user terminal to satellite/s to user terminal [customer dish antenna],” SpaceX founder Elon Musk explains.

The Falcon 9 first-stage booster that launched the Starlink Group 2-1 satellites is identified as B1049-10, it was its 10th re-flight. The booster previously launched Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission, Iridium-8 satellite, and 7 other Starlink fleet deployments. The rocket was recovered once more, it landed on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous droneship stationed in the Pacific Ocean approximately 8-minutes after liftoff. The landing marked SpaceX’s 90th orbital-class rocket recovery. It is the only company in the world capable of recovering orbital-class boosters to reuse. Now, this flight-proven booster reached the 10th re-flight milestone SpaceX engineers plan to accomplish with every first-stage booster on its fleet. Rocket reusability enables the company to reduce the cost of launching payload to space.

The Starlink Group 2-1 satellites were deployed approximately 15-minutes after liftoff into Polar Orbit. The satellites are version “[…] V1.5 Starlinks with laser inter-satellite links, which are needed for high latitudes & mid ocean coverage,” Musk shared via Twitter. In the weeks ahead, each satellite will use their on-board krypton-powered ion thrusters to raise into an operational orbit. Now, the Starlink constellation is comprised of around 1,797 Starlink satellites in space out of over 20,000 that will be deployed in the years to come. Once the satellites are in their designated orbit, the set of satellites equipped with lasers could be operational within the next “4 to 6 months,” according to Musk. The company is already providing Starlink Beta service to around 100,000 users across 14 countries and is accepting internet service pre-orders via its official website: 

VIDEO: SpaceX’s First West Coast Starlink Mission


Featured Image Source: SpaceX

About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

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.

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