Featured Image Source: Created by @ErcXspace via Twitter
SpaceX is working to complete building the world's most advanced internet infrastructure that consists of launching at least 12,000 Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). SpaceX depends on Starship's success to launch the next-generation Starlink 2.0 satellites that will enable the company to provide high-speed internet access globally. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the Starlink 2.0 satellites are going to be larger and more powerful that it will require using a Starship to launch to orbit, he shared during a recent interview with YouTube channel Everyday Astronaut.
The Starlink 2.0 satellites are too large to launch atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which is capable of launching 50 to 60 Starlink 1.0 satellites to LEO on a single mission. "Falcon neither has the volume nor the mass [to] orbit capability required for Starlink 2.0," 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," he explained. "We need Starship to work and fly frequently or Starlink 2.0 will be stuck on the ground," Musk said.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell previously said a Starship is expected to be capable of deploying up to 400 Starlink 1.0 satellites to orbit on a single mission. Starship will be capable of launching approximately 100 tons to LEO, which will enable SpaceX to rapidly complete building the broadband constellation by doubling the amount of satellites it deploys per launch. [This sentence was edited on June 6, 2022 to add more accurate information about how many Starlink 2.0 satellites Starship will be capable of launching.]
"We need Starship to work and fly frequently or Starlink 2.0 will be stuck on the ground," Musk said.
Starship is currently under development at the Starbase facility located at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The company is pending regulatory approval to perform the first-ever orbital flight test this year. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been working on completing an environmental assessment for roughly 11 months which caused SpaceX to delay attempting to launch a Starship to orbit. The FAA announced it plans to complete the assessment by June 13th; Once complete, SpaceX will be able to apply for a spaceflight license to launch a Starship launch vehicle prototype to orbit.
Musk previously said that SpaceX will launch thousands of Starlink satellites before launching any humans aboard Starship. Boca Chica Village residents have seen the Starship SN24 prototype features a payload cargo door that looks like it could be a Starlink satellite dispenser, as pictured below. A digital artist @ErcXspace created a render of how Starlink satellites could be deployed, image is also linked below. It is unknown whether SpaceX plans to deploy Starlink satellites on a debut flight or just test the cargo door mechanism in microgravity. Starship SN24 is the vehicle that engineers are ground testing to conduct the orbital flight test.
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
Author's Note: This article was edited on June 6, 2022 to add more accurate information about how many Starlink 2.0 satellites Starship will be capable of launching per mission.
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Featured Image Source: @ErcXspace via Twitter