SpaceX launched the first fleet of 21 Starlink V2 ‘Mini’ satellites on February 27. These are the second-generation (Gen2) Starlink satellites designed to increase the internet network’s capabilities. “V2 minis include key technologies—such as more powerful phased array antennas and the use of E-band for backhaul—which will allow Starlink to provide ~4x more capacity per satellite than earlier iterations. This means Starlink can provide more bandwidth with increased reliability and connect millions of more people around the world with high-speed internet,” the company said last month. The Starlink V2 Minis are a smaller version of a future iteration of the V2 satellites.
First Starlink v2 satellites reach orbit pic.twitter.com/0l08568mJ9— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 28, 2023
SpaceX has approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 7,500 Starlink Gen2 satellites to orbit in the coming years. SpaceX is launching the ‘Mini’ version of these satellites atop Falcon 9 rockets, future versions of these Gen2 satellites will be much larger and heavier so will need to be launched atop Starship when it's operational. These larger V2 satellites will feature massive antennas and technology capable of beaming voice and text messaging data directly to smartphones. Read more: SpaceX & T-Mobile Partner To Provide Starlink Satellite-to-Cellular Service In 2023 “[...] The V2 satellites launched on Falcon 9 are a bit smaller, so we affectionately refer to them as ‘V2 Mini’ satellites. But don’t let the name fool you, a V2 Mini satellite has four times the capacity for serving users compared to its earlier counterparts,” said SpaceX.
On March 22, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared that they are working to test Starlink V2 Mini satellites thoroughly after ‘experiencing some issues’ in orbit. He revealed this in response to astronomer Jonathan McDowell who closely monitors the Starlink constellation. McDowell said there was some significant Starlink altitude changes. “I think only the altitude changes are significant. I think they are debugging some issue with the new sats, and we'll see in a few weeks if they resume orbit raising,” said McDowell via Twitter. – “[A] Lot of new technology in Starlink V2, so we’re experiencing some issues, as expected,” replied Musk, “Some sats [satellites] will be deorbited, others will be tested thoroughly before raising altitude above Space Station,” he wrote.
The fleet of 21 Starlink V2 Mini satellites started to use their onboard Argon Hall thrusters to raise into their operational orbits a couple days after being deployed by Falcon 9 into an altitude of around 370 kilometers. The International Space Station is at an orbit between 415 and 420 kilometers above Earth. This first fleet of V2 Mini satellites was expected to operate at an altitude of 530 kilometers 43 degrees to the equator but halted their orbit raise so that engineers on Earth could test to determine which satellites work well. The satellites that do not work will be deorbited to burn in Earth's rough atmosphere to avoid creating space debris.
Seems like something is going on with some of the other Starlink V2 mini's, some changes in altitude and eccentricity (more eccentric orbits). @planet4589 any thoughts? Orbital mechanics ain't my jam pic.twitter.com/CFQzU8LpEj— Nathan Owens (@VirtuallyNathan) March 22, 2023
Lot of new technology in Starlink V2, so we’re experiencing some issues, as expected.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 22, 2023
Some sats will be deorbited, others will be tested thoroughly before raising altitude above Space Station.
The Argon Hall thrusters are a new technology on the V2 Mini satellites; the first-generation satellites have krypton-powered thrusters. Also, a HEO Robotics/Satellogic imaging spacecraft captured an image of a Starlink V2 Mini satellite which appears to show two solar array antennas. “This is a prime example of a successful solar panel deployment! Congrats on the launch SpaceX. Our space-based sensors captured a newly launched Starlink V2 Mini satellite 7 days after deployment,” shared HEO Robotics representatives via Twitter. SpaceX has not officially confirmed whether the second-generation ‘Mini’ satellites are equipped with two antennas instead of one like the first-generation Starlink satellites, however, the image (shown below) does show two extended antennas that HEO Robotics identified as a recently launched Starlink V2 Mini satellite.
This is a prime example of a successful solar panel deployment! Congrats on the launch @SpaceX.— HEO Robotics (@heorobotics) March 7, 2023
Our space-based sensors captured a newly launched Starlink V2 Mini satellite 7 days after deployment.
Powered by @Satellogic pic.twitter.com/Fj5NwDOC71
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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.