Image Source: Starlink
SpaceX will have a record breaking rocket launch manifest in 2020. In 2019, they only conducted 13, the most launches SpaceX has preformed in one year are 21 -this year they are scheduled to preform over 30 launches! The increase is mostly due to Starlink satellite deployments scheduled for approximately every 2 weeks. Which could add up to a total of 24 Falcon 9 rocket launches solely dedicated to building the Starlink constellation.
Starlink is part of SpaceX's plan to fund their space program by offering internet services. Starlink satellites will use the most advanced technology to beam low-latency, high-speed broadband internet connection from space at the speed of light. Currently, there are 120 small Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit. The first batch of 60 Starlink satellites was launched in May 2019, the second batch of 60 in November 2019. The third batch of 60 satellites is planned for this month.
Though weather conditions could delay SpaceX's first Starlink launch of 2020. This next mission to deploy 60 additional satellites is called Starlink-2. The launch was slated for Friday, January 3rd, but weather forecasters with the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron are anticipating 40% "go" conditions. The concerns are high upper level winds and cumulus clouds. Forecasters said:
"Scattered showers and isolated storms are possible late Friday afternoon into the overnight hours, including around launch window."
The Starlink-2 mission is now scheduled for no earlier than (NET) Monday, January 6th at 9:20 pm ET. SpaceX aims to launch a Falcon 9 rocket with 60 Starlink communications satellites to orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
If this launch of 60 Starlink satellites is successful, SpaceX will become the company with the world's largest satellite constellation composed of 180 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit. The company is scheduled to deploy hundreds more in the coming months. President of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, said that after 24 rocket launches they expect to achieve global internet coverage, "We need 360 to 400 to have a constant connectivity where the satellites can end up through the ground talking to each other. Once we get to 1,200 satellites, we will have coverage of the whole globe." So, there could definitely be an average of two Starlink launches per month in 2020. Once they have 300 satellites in orbit Starlink would have the capability to provide internet services for customers in the Northern United States and Southern Canada.
SpaceX did not expect their satellites would be too bright in the night sky and are hoping to find a solution soon to not intervene with cosmic observations. The upcoming Starlink-2 mission will feature one satellite with an experimental anti-reflectivity coating. Shotwell said:
"This next batch has one satellite that we’ve put a coating on the bottom. This is going to be an experiment … We’re going to do trial and error to figure out what’s the best way to get this done. But we are going to get it done."
The coating will go on the bottom of one of the 60 new satellites that will be deployed into orbit this month. They will test out the coating first, before applying it to more satellites. In order to see if the satellite coating's anti-reflective properties could affect the satellite's performance due to possible thermal changes.
About the Author
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.