Featured Image Source: SpaceX
Today, September 3, SpaceX deployed the twelfth fleet of Starlink satellites that will make up part of its broadband internet network. A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 8:46 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying 60 internet-beaming Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.
Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/sTZnAn3VTX— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 3, 2020
Approximately 9 minutes after liftoff, Falcon 9’s first-stage booster returned from space and landed on the Of Course I Still Love You autonomous drone ship situated in the Atlantic Ocean. This was the booster’s second flight; It previously launched the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 for the United States Space Force in June 2020. This morning’s rocket landing marked SpaceX’s 60th orbital-class landing. Reusability enables the aerospace company to lower the cost of spaceflight; this booster will be used on a third mission.
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/vgB0dnTWaP— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 3, 2020
The cluster of flat-panel Starlink satellites were released in space around 14 minutes after liftoff. – “What a beautiful sight!” the launch commentator SpaceX Engineer Kate Tice said during the live broadcast as she viewed the satellites float away with Earth in the background. “Shortly these satellites will deploy their solar arrays, and over the next few days and weeks they will distance themselves out from each other and use their onboard ion thrusters to make their way to operational orbit,” she added. The successful deployment of 60 satellites increased the constellation’s size to around 708 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit. The newest deployment of Starlink satellites will raise to an operational altitude of around 550-kilometers above Earth. All the satellites deployed today are equipped with a deployable visor that will be utilized as a sunshade to cover the most reflective parts of the satellites. SpaceX is working with senior astronomers to ensure they decrease the satellites’ brightness to mitigate the potential of interfering with their cosmic observations.
Overall, SpaceX plans to deploy around 12,000 satellites to offer low latency, broadband internet all over the world. Company officials state their main focus is connecting rural areas on the planet where internet is unreliable and non-existent. Starlink service will be offered in portions of the northern United States and Canada before this year ends.
Deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed pic.twitter.com/DdBxIOdOg1— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 3, 2020
During the broadcast, Tice shared that the company has been assessing the network and that the results ‘have been good.’ – “They show super-low latency and download speeds greater than 100 [megabits] per second. That means our latency is low enough to play the fastest online video games and our download speeds are fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once,” she said. The network is “very much a work in progress,” she added, stating that as more satellites are deployed it will “unlock the full capability.”
SpaceX later announced the network's speed via Twitter: “In initial tests of Starlink, the team has been collecting latency data and performing standard speed tests of the system. Results from these tests have shown super low latency and download speeds greater than 100 Mbps – fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once and still have bandwidth to spare.” Customers will receive connection via user terminal dish and router that will be easy to install.
Results from these tests have shown super low latency and download speeds greater than 100 mbps – fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once and still have bandwidth to spare— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 3, 2020