SpaceX aims to launch third batch of Starlink satellites in December
November 28, 2019
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, wants to fund his dreams of colonizing Mars by offering internet services. He founded a satellite internet company named Starlink. They are deploying a low latency, broadband internet system which consists of surrounding Earth with a megaconstellation of over 12,000 satellites that will beam low-latency, high-speed internet. The Starlink company aims to provide affordable internet all over the world and believe their internet will be so powerful that it will benefit places where there is no internet connectivity, and where existing services are not reliable.
SpaceX successfully launched the first batch of 60 Starlink satellites in May of this year. And on November 11, they deployed their second batch of 60 internet satellites. Currently, they are approximately 120 of these satellites in low Earth orbit.
Falcon 9 launches 60 Starlink satellites to orbit – targeting up to 6 Starlink launches this year and will accelerate our cadence next year to put ~720 satellites in orbit for continuous coverage of most populated areas on Earth pic.twitter.com/HF8bCI4JQD— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 24, 2019
Successful deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed! pic.twitter.com/bpBqO9oYR3— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2019
The third batch of Starlink internet satellites is scheduled to launch soon, in late December. A total of 60 satellites will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket's fairing, from pad 40 in Cape Canaveral Florida. Each satellite is a flat panel with a single solar array that unfolds upwards, about the size of an office desk, weighing 500.5 pounds.
The satellites transmit their signal from 4 phased array radio antennas. This flat antenna can transmit in multiple directions and frequencies without moving. Starlink will beam data over Earth's surface at nearly the speed of light, bypassing the limitations of of our current internet infrastructure. To operate, each satellite will link to 4 others using lasers. No other internet-providing satellites do this. They will have the ability to allocate broadband resources in real time, placing capacity where its most on demand. Also be capable of directing signal away from areas where it might cause interference to other systems. The system will require associated ground transceivers and customers would need a box terminal to receive internet connection from space.
"We need 360 to 400 to have a constant connectivity where the satellites can end up through the ground talking to each other. Once we get to 1,200 satellites, we will have coverage of the whole globe."
-President of SpaceX, G. Shotwell
After 6 rocket launches with 60 satellites each, they could potentially start offering internet service in Canada and the northern United States. Every deployment of 60 satellites could deliver 1 terabit of bandwith, that could potentially support 40,000 users streaming ultra-high-definition content at the same time.
6 more launches of 60 🛰 for initial activation, 12 for significant coverage— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 16, 2019
After 24 rocket launches, they expect to achieve global coverage. President of SpaceX, Shotwell, said as many as 24 Starlink launches are planned for next year. Their Washington state factory may soon be capable of supporting a large amount of satellite production. Nearly 12,000 satellites will be deployed by the mid-2020s, with a possible later extension to total 42,000 satellites. Shotwell also stated that their new Starship rocket, that is in its early phase of development, could one day be capable of taking 400 Starlink satellites to orbit in a single launch. Which could help the company finish the mega-constellation by the year 2027. [Read: SpaceX Is Building The World's Most Powerful Rocket: Starship Technical Details]
SpaceX was awarded a $28 million contract from the Pentagon to test and asses Starlink by connecting it to military platforms. Read more: U.S. Air Force is already testing SpaceX Starlink internet on military planes.
If the upcoming December launch of 60 additional satellites is successful, it will make make Starlink the world’s largest satellite constellation in operation, with about 180 satellites in orbit.
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.