SpaceX Starbase is working to launch a Super Heavy rocket to propel Starship to orbit for the very first time. The long-awaited orbital flight will provide engineering teams with valuable insight to speed up the rocket-ship’s development. The Starship launch system will be very versatile. Besides returning humanity to the Moon and transporting the first humans to Mars, Starship will enable SpaceX to deploy its Starlink satellite constellation rapidly.
Photographer Kevin Randolph @CosmicalChief captured a photo of Starlink Satellites stacked inside a hangar at the Starbase Starship factory in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The photo was shared by spaceflight communicator Felix Schlang – who has a YouTube channel called ‘What About It’ (WAI Media). Mr. Randolph also shared photos of the ‘Starlink payload box’ as it was being delivered into the payload processing building.
Here's @CosmicalChief's SpaceX Starlink v2 Satellite stack picture from Starbase, January 20th, with brightened Shadows for a clearer view of the stack!— What about it!? (@FelixSchlang) January 21, 2023
I am counting 33 Starlink v2 Sats in this picture! Are any other estimates out there? ❤️🚀 pic.twitter.com/m7T1sEBo9o
Once Starship is operational, the Starlink satellites would be released from Starship’s cargo bay like a ‘PEZ’ candy dispenser; the company shared a digital depiction of the deployment mechanism (video below). South Texas residents have also captured photos of stainless-steel Starship prototype SN24 with what appears to be a payload dispenser door. SN24 is the vehicle that is undergoing pre-flight testing to conduct the first flight test this year. Though, it is unknown if SpaceX would risk launching Starlink satellites on the upcoming debut test flight.
Deck from SpaceX all-hands update talk I gave last week pic.twitter.com/ApsdPjjukh— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 5, 2022
The payload door on Starship 24. Possibly used to deploy Starlink satellites.— Starship Gazer (@StarshipGazer) May 10, 2022
6:22 am 5/10/22 pic.twitter.com/g6FaFsBcvf
SpaceX founder Elon Musk says Starship is critical to Starlink’s success because it will enable the expansion of the broadband constellation at a faster rate. Currently, the company launches around 50 Starlink satellites atop partially-reusable Falcon 9 rockets. Starship will be fully-reusable and capable of launching 100 tons to Low Earth Orbit, making it ideal for cost-effective spaceflights.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell previously said the Starship launch vehicle would be capable of deploying up to 400 Starlink first-generation satellites during a single launch. However, SpaceX’s second-generation (Gen2/V2) Starlink satellites are much heavier because they feature upgraded technology and new hardware to enhance the network’s capabilities. The company has not officially shared exactly how many of these Starlink V2 satellites would be transported on Starship simultaneously. In 2022, Musk mentioned that the Starlink V2 satellites weigh around 1.25 tons, by this metric approximately 90 could be deployed on a single Starship mission. Probably more Gen2 satellites could be propelled to orbit given the Super Heavy rocket's immense power upon liftoff, it will be capable of generating over 17 million pounds of thrust.
The company already has approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to launch 7,500 Starlink Gen2 satellites. “[...] Falcon 9 neither has the volume nor the mass [to] orbit capability required for Starlink 2.0 [V2],” Musk said. “So even if we shrunk the Starlink satellite down, the total up mass of Falcon is not nearly enough to do Starlink 2.0. [...] We need Starship to work and fly frequently or Starlink 2.0 will be stuck on the ground,” he said in June 2022.
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About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy 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.