SpaceX develops the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft. The Falcon 9 is the first and only orbital-class rocket capable of being reused over a dozen times by performing propulsive landings soon after deploying payload to orbit. The company has a fleet of sea-going vessels designed to support rocket and spacecraft recovery operations in order to reuse on future missions. To date, SpaceX has performed 211 launches, landed 173 orbital-class Falcon 9 boosters, and reused its rockets 146 times which is a huge accomplishment in the history of rocketry, no other aerospace company has this reusability capability.
SpaceX livestreams every mission; it equipped all the recovery ship fleet with Starlink satellite internet that will provide Mission Control with more accurate tracking data and more reliable video coverage during live launch broadcasts. “[...] SpaceX operates a fleet of 10 ocean going vessels designed to safely and reliably recover rockets and spacecraft that take both humans and cargo to orbit. The mission critical nature of these operations places a significant demand on offshore network solutions to deliver data on the spot, regardless of operating location or weather conditions,” said the company. “Prior to Starlink, SpaceX’s maritime recovery fleet relied on traditional geostationary satellite internet service (VSAT), which came with high latency, low bandwidth, and poor reliability. The systems were also challenging to install and required frequent maintenance. At over $165k per month for 25 Mb/s [megabits per second] download by 25 Mb/s upload of pre-paid bandwidth, satellite internet was one of the top operating costs for SpaceX’s recovery fleet. And because the vehicle can generate 100s of GBs of data, SpaceX regularly paid costly overage fees,” shared the company in a press release.
Starlink increased Internet download throughput by 5900% and upload throughput by 700% on the recovery sea-going vessels. Starlink also reduced internet latency by 95% compared to the company’s previous internet provider. “With a max upload speed of 40Mb/s on each installation, Starlink has enabled the transfer of 100s of GB of data within hours of the rocket landing. This was not possible with the VSAT system. Starlink also reduced latency to just 50ms, allowing operators to respond faster for even greater control over their fleet,” shared the company. “At a flat rate of $5k per vessel per month, SpaceX will see a nearly 70% reduction in monthly internet cost for the fleet after implementation of Starlink, all while expanding capability and total throughput.”
“As SpaceX’s launch cadence has accelerated in recent years, the time spent by the teams and vessels offshore has increased significantly. More time at sea drives additional risk to crew, and communications are key to minimizing that risk. With Starlink, SpaceX has seen improved connection reliability, including in thunderstorms and thick cloud cover, which has helped reduce crew isolation while at sea. SpaceX recovery members are now able to have video calls with their families during long stretches at sea. During off-time, they can stream movies and play online, latency dependent multiplayer games, all while offshore,” shared the company. SpaceX already operates a constellation of around 3,600 Starlink satellites that provide coverage globally.
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.