Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX's first mission of 2020 will deploy Starlink satellites on Monday, January 6 -It will mark the first official launch supported by the new United States Space Force. A Falcon 9 rocket will lift off at 9:20 p.m. EST from Pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SpaceX conducted a static-fire test yesterday to prepare the rocket for the Starlink-2 mission.
Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission previously launched a Starlink mission, the Iridium-8 mission, and the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission pic.twitter.com/QdailzdG4o— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 4, 2020
During Monday's mission, SpaceX will deploy another batch of 60 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. These will join the 120 others that are already in orbit. All will be part of a constellation composed of over 12,000 satellites.
For the past years, the U.S Air Force has been responsible for monitoring space-based activities. They usually support space mission’s by providing tracking and security among other logistics, the only difference is that for the first time it will fall under the U.S Space Force’s command. President Donald Trump signed Space Force into existence in December 2019 after the U.S. Senate passed the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. Space Force will be the sixth branch of the military, and is still within the Department of the Air Force. Similar to how the Marine Corps is within the Department of the Navy.
Here is the L-3 day forecast for the Jan 6 launch of #Starlink, courtesy of 45th WS!— 45th Space Wing (@45thSpaceWing) January 3, 2020
Launch day probability of violating launch weather constraints: <10%
Primary concern(s): Cumulus Cloud Rule
Who is ready to witness history with the first @SpaceForceDoD launch?!
📸: @SpaceX pic.twitter.com/LGfmVFO9Fu
The founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, showed support for Space Force since the beginning. In a tweet, September last year, Musk wrote he supports Space Force because he felt the US needed to "make Starfleet real." As the new branch of the military was signed into existence, Musk welcomed Space Force with the Star-Trek reference, "Starfleet begins" he wrote via Twitter.
Definitely for Space Force. We need to make Starfleet real.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 7, 2019
The Starlink satellites that will be deployed next week are part of SpaceX’s plan to fund future space missions, like building a base on the moon and the first city on Mars, by offering world-wide internet services. Starlink has been tested by the military before, but SpaceX's main goal is to offer internet service to the general public. Especially in areas where internet connectivity is non-existent, unreliable or too expensive. SpaceX has not announced pricing for the service yet, Shotwell said in December:
"All I know is you will be far happier with the value of the Starlink service than you are with your current service. You will, for sure, get way more bandwidth for the same price, or way more bandwidth for less…You’ll be far happier with this. The value will be far greater.”
Starlink will require associated ground control facilities and each Starlink customer would need a terminal to receive internet connection. Musk, stated the terminal is about the size of a pizza box. He tested Starlink's internet network last year by sending a text via Twitter, wrote:
"Sending this tweet through space via Starlink satellite. Whoa, it worked!!"
Whoa, it worked!!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 22, 2019
SpaceX will conduct as many as 24 Starlink launches this year. They could begin offering Starlink services during hurricane season in Southern United States to help first responders, if terrestrial communication get damaged during a storm.