SpaceX Targets To Launch The Next Starlink Satellite Fleet Equipped With Communication Lasers This Week

by Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo November 29, 2021

SpaceX Targets To Launch The Next Starlink Satellite Fleet Equipped With Communication Lasers This Week

SpaceX targets to launch the next Starlink satellite fleet equipped with inter-satellite communication laser links this week. The Starlink V1.5 laser feature enables the satellites to transfer data amongst one another much faster without the need to directly communicate with ground stations on Earth. Light travels faster in the vacuum of outer space than through fiber-optic cables used by terrestrial internet infrastructures.

The first phase of building the Starlink constellation involves deploying internet-beaming satellites into 5 orbital shells. The company is currently working to fill-up Shell 2 alongside Shell 4; Shell 1 is near completion. The company is gearing-up to conduct the Starlink Group 4-3 launch on Wednesday, December 1st at 6:20 p.m. EST [date is subject to change].  The Group 4-3 mission will be the second to launch 53 Starlink satellites into orbital Shell number 4. Early November the company launched the first Shell 4 deployment, known as Group 4-1; It is unclear why they did not identify the upcoming mission as ‘Group 4-2’. Shell 4 will comprise 72 orbital planes with 22 satellites in each plane. Shell 4 will have a total of 1,584 satellites operating in an inclination of 53.2° Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at a circular altitude of 540-kilometers. Around 30 launches will be required to fill this orbital shell.

As of today, SpaceX operates approximately 1,844 internet-beaming satellites in LEO. Over the next seven years, the constellation could have over 12,000 satellites that will blanket the Earth with high-speed broadband internet connection. This will be beneficial to remote regions around the globe where internet service is unreliable or completely unavailable. The Starlink constellation currently beams internet service to a bit over 140,000 users living across 20 countries, including in the United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. 

SpaceX is accepting service pre-orders to a limited number of customers per coverage area. The company is primarily focused on connecting those living in rural communities where the internet is unreliable. SpaceX’s Starlink division is working to fulfill Starlink Kit pre-orders. It received over half-a-million pre-order deposits through its official web portal Starlink.com. The company has faced challenges with the production of Starlink antenna due to Silicon chip shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic that affected many industries. “We had some supply chain constraints, just like everybody else related to consumer electronics, for the last few months on the current dish,” SpaceX Chief Financial Officer Bret Johnsen shared at the Satellite 2021 conference. Engineers designed a new rectangular antenna to connect to the network that would enable them to manufacture in a cost-effective way. “We modified the bill of materials where we needed to such that we wouldn’t have those constraints” with the new dish, Johnsen said in September. The new Starlink antenna is already available for pre-order. Johnsen says the company is manufacturing 5,000 user terminals per week and aims to increase production to “multiple times of that” with the new design.

Featured Image Source: SpaceX








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