Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX aims to fund future missions to Mars by offering Starlink internet services worldwide. The rocket company is in the process of deploying a mega-constellation of internet-beaming satellites. Currently, there are about 300 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit out of the 12,000 that will make-up SpaceX's internet network. Each satellite is flat-design panel, relatively small compared to other satellites, weighing approximately 260 kilograms.
"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."
Starlink will provide reliable, affordable internet all over the world. It will benefit places where there is no internet connectivity, and where existing services are not reliable or too expensive.
On March 15, SpaceX attempted to launch its sixth batch of 60 satellites atop a previously flown Falcon 9 rocket but the Starlink-6 mission was aborted due to rocket issues; Just seconds after liftoff, the Falcon 9's computerized systems detected an issue with one of the rocket's nine Merlin 1D engines, and automatically triggered an abort at T-0 seconds. SpaceX stated Sunday morning: "Standing down today; standard auto-abort triggered due to out of family data during engine power check."
SpaceX is now targeting Wednesday, March 18 at 8:16 a.m. EDT. to conduct the sixth Starlink mission. The Falcon 9 will liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will carry 60 satellites to deploy them into an elliptical orbit approximately 15 minutes after liftoff. Once deployed, SpaceX will attempt to return the rocket's first-stage from space to land it a fifth time on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship situated in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida's coast. The United States Air Force's 45th Wing Weather Squadron is forecasting 90% chance favorable weather for tomorrow's launch, stated: "No significant weather is expected and only scattered low level clouds are expected […] mainly over the water."
If for any reason the mission is delayed again, a back-up opportunity is available on Thursday, March 19 at 7:56 a.m. EDT.
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SpaceX will also attempt to reuse a payload fairing tomorrow. The fairing previously flew on the first Starlink mission that took place in May 2019. Approximately 45 minutes after liftoff tomorrow, SpaceX’s fairing recovery ships called Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief, which will attempt to recover the two fairing halves. The ships feature four arms holding a large net to catch the fairing as it falls from space. Each fairing halve is equipped with small thrusters and a large parachute to soft land into the ship's net -or the ocean. SpaceX has only recovered a fairing with Ms. Tree successfully once in 2019. Recovering fairings to reuse reduces the cost of spaceflight, the company could save about $6 million.