SpaceX is deploying its own broadband internet satellite network called Starlink. The aerospace company aims to offer service worldwide, targeting underserved areas where internet connection is unreliable, nonexistent, or too expensive. Starlink customers would be supporting SpaceX’s missions to Mars. As of today, there are 480 internet-beaming Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit. SpaceX last deployment took place on June 3rd. The next cluster of 60 satellites will be deployed on Sunday. A Falcon 9 rocket will launch the ninth batch of Starlink satellites from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission is called Starlink-8; scheduled for no earlier than June 13th at 5:21 a.m. Eastern Time.
The Starlink-8 mission will also deploy 3 of Planet's SkySat satellites inside Falcon 9's payload fairing, alongside the batch of 60 Starlink satellites. Planet is an Earth-Imaging satellite company that contracted SpaceX’s Rideshare program launch services to deploy its next 6 SkySat satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The other 3 SkySats will be launched until July.
SpaceX's SmallSat Rideshare program allows companies to launch small satellites to space destinations for as low as $1 million, by sharing spacecraft with a larger payload during a mission. Booking an entire rocket flight can cost up to $60 million, the rideshare program gives companies a much affordable option to launch small payloads into orbit.
You awake? Here’s the view from space. https://t.co/w2LETH7pWE— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) June 6, 2020
Planet’s SkySats are Earth-Imaging satellites, which take high-resolution photographs of Earth’s surface. The company’s SkySat satellites recently photographed the street in front of the White House from space, pictured above. This street is special because on June 5th, Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. renamed half of the street on 16th Avenue to “Black Lives Matter Plaza” in support of the African-American community.
Planet has a batch of 15 SkySats already in orbit, it hopes to complete a constellation of 21 SkySats before the end of this year. Each satellite is about the size of a washing machine.
The company stated the next SkySats, will operate in LEO Sun Synchronous Orbits at a – “mid-inclination orbit of 53 degrees, complimenting the Sun Synchronous fleet, and will offer more targeted coverage and thus unrivaled rapid-revisits and raw image capacity in key geographic regions.” Launching its next set of satellites into this orbit will allow Planet to offer better quality images of Earth to compete in the national security market. “The launch of SkySats …as well as the development of our enhanced 50 cm imagery (to be made available to customers this year)—are just some examples of Planet’s continuously evolving industry-leading geospatial offerings,” Planet wrote in a press release.
With the upcoming launches of six new SkySats aboard two @SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, customers will be able to capture satellite imagery of a single location up to 12 times per day, unlocking the power of unprecedented insights. https://t.co/b7q1nZVj15 pic.twitter.com/lXBmPzlXqz— Planet (@planetlabs) June 10, 2020
The 50-centimeter-resolution imagery of the new satellites will be an improvement from the 72-centimeter-resolution imagery provided by the current satellites in orbit. Once all SkySats satellites are deployed by SpaceX this year, the satellites will capture images of locations on Earth up to 12 times in a single day for Planet’s customers.