SpaceX plans to deploy Starlink into more orbital rings to begin service by hurricane season
December 19, 2019
SpaceX Starlink could start offering satellite internet services as soon as next year in the southern United States during hurricane season, to help if there is any terrestrial communication destruction. So far, they have deployed 120 out of 12,000 small, desk-sized satellites into low Earth orbit. These were deployed in separate batches of 60 satellites during three Falcon 9 rocket launches this year. The next Starlink batch of 60 satellites is scheduled for later this month. They plan to place the first 1,584 satellites into a 550-kilometer orbit.
Starlink aims to provide reliable, affordable internet all over the world. Which will benefit places where there is no internet connectivity, and where existing services are not reliable or too expensive.
“SpaceX designed Starlink to connect end users with low-latency, high-bandwidth broadband services by providing continual coverage around the world using a network of thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit.”
The company's initial plan was to deploy 66 satellites into the same orbital lane, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initially approved them to launch these on only 24 orbital rings. Think of orbital rings/lanes as "roads" around our planet where satellites move in, the initial plan was to place 66 satellites on each of the 24 "roads" -to achieve their goal of offering world-wide internet service they needed to deploy more satellites. SpaceX filed a new plan with the FCC, requesting to increase the number of orbital rings in which the Starlink satellites could operate in, in order to start offering satellite internet services across the United States sooner.
SpaceX's new plan is to deploy Starlink satellites into 72 orbital rings at an altitude of 550 kilometers. Each of the 72 orbital rings would have 22 satellites. Spacing the satellites 22 per orbital ring instead of 66 per ring "accelerates the process of deploying satellites covering a wider service area," SpaceX stated. It enables them to deploy less satellites and offer more global coverage because the satellites would now be covering more areas around the planet. Under this new plan, a single Falcon 9 launch can fill up about three orbital rings. SpaceX told the FCC on August 30:
“The proposed respacing would require fewer launches of satellites — perhaps as few as half — to initiate service to the entire contiguous United States; Globally, the modification would enable more rapid coverage of all longitudes to grow toward the Equator, as well as bolstering capacity over in areas of greater population density.”
By increasing the number of orbital rings where these first Starlink satellites would operate, SpaceX said they could achieve enough internet coverage to provide service by next years hurricane season in southern United States. Internet from satellites does come in handy for emergency services during natural disasters when communication systems' cables and towers get damaged.
The FCC approved their request this month allowing SpaceX to deploy and operate satellites in more orbital rings around Earth. On December 19 they stated:
“Grant of this application will allow SpaceX to accelerate the deployment of its satellite constellation to deliver broadband service throughout the United States, especially to those who live in areas underserved or unserved by terrestrial systems."
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.