SpaceX Starship Could Be Ready To Launch Starlink Gen2 System Satellites As Early As March

by Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo January 08, 2022

SpaceX Starship Could Be Ready To Launch Starlink Gen2 System Satellites As Early As March

Featured Image Source: Render created by @ErcXspace via Twitter

This year is guaranteed to be exciting for space enthusiasts, SpaceX is preparing to perform the first Starship orbital flight test that will provide engineers with insight to speed up the launch vehicle's development. The company also plans to begin launching payload to orbit this year, according to a recent letter to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the letter submitted on January 7, SpaceX revealed that Starship could be ready to launch Starlink Gen2 System satellites as early as March. The next-generation satellites are part of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation that aims to provide high-speed broadband internet service globally.

SpaceX has FCC authorization to launch Phase 1 of the constellation which involves deploying 4,408 internet-beaming satellites to Low Earth Orbit. To date, the company has launched approximately 1,993 satellites to orbit. The Starlink satellites are launched in batches of up to 60 atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The Starship launch vehicle will be capable of deploying up to 400 Starlink satellites during a single launch which will enable SpaceX to build the constellation at a much faster rate to rapidly expand internet service coverage.

In August last year, SpaceX submitted an amended application to the FCC that included two proposals detailing how the company planned to launch the Gen2 System. One of the proposals, Configuration 1, states the company could complete Phase 1 of the satellite constellation by using Starship when the launch system is ready. The Configuration 2 proposal is an ‘alternate arrangement’ that would continue to be launched by Falcon 9 if the Gen2 satellites are ready before the Starship launch system is operational. However, the FCC told SpaceX it could only select one configuration. On January 7, SpaceX responded to the FCC stating –“[…] SpaceX has exceeded its own expectations in the pace of developing both its Gen2 satellites and its Starship launch vehicle. Accordingly, SpaceX hereby notifies the Commission that it will Pursue Configuration 1 and abandon Configuration 2 proposed in the Amendment,” the company states. “[…] SpaceX plans to have Gen2 satellites prepared for launch as soon as March 2022, pending regulatory approval.”

The SpaceX legal representative explained to the FCC that the company proposed two configurations because it “was difficult to predict with certainty” whether Starship would be ready to launch satellites. The FCC typically takes months, even years, to review and approve proposals. “SpaceX made these filings to account for extended Commission review time —which prompted filing of the two alternative configurations in the Amendment — SpaceX is now much further along in the process. SpaceX has now reached a point in the development of its Starship launch vehicle and Gen2 satellites that it can concentrate solely on Configuration 1 and no longer pursue Configuration 2. SpaceX confirms here that it still intends to begin launching the Gen2 system as early as March 2022, likely beginning with the 43 degree or 53 degree inclined planes,” the company told the FCC. A chart detailing the Configuration 1 Gen2 System Starlink satellites orbital parameters is shown below. In this configuration, SpaceX would deploy 29,988 satellites long-term.

Starlink Gen2 System Configuration 1 Orbital Parameters

 

Source: 2020 SpaceX FCC filing.

SpaceX told the FCC that “[…] The Gen2 system will complement and augment that first generation system so that their combined capacity will be available to meet the growing needs of American consumers, including those in underserved and unserved areas. Just as terrestrial wireless networks meet customer demands by operating more than one generation of technology simultaneously, SpaceX plans to use both of its networks to provide superior service,” the company wrote in the letter to the FCC, assuring that the Starlink customer user terminal (antenna and Wi-Fi router) will be able to receive service from satellites of either system. To learn more about SpaceX’s broadband internet division visit Starlink.com.

Featured Image Source: Render created by @ErcXspace via Twitter








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