SpaceX is rapidly building its broadband satellite Starlink constellation that already provides internet service to over 250,000 users across 30 countries. The Starlink network is ideal for rural and remote regions where internet access is unreliable or completely unavailable. SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared the company plans to double the number of Starlink satellites in orbit this year to expand Starlink internet service coverage globally. “Expecting over 4,200 Starlink satellites in operation within 18 months, which is ~2/3 of all active satellites of Earth," he said. Starlink is already the world's largest broadband satellite constellation.
Starlink 🛰 team too! Expecting over 4200 Starlink satellites in operation within 18 months, which is ~2/3 of all active satellites of Earth.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 28, 2022
The Starlink constellation consists of launching 12,000 satellites over the next five years. According to data by Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, SpaceX has launched 2,335 satellites in total, only 2,110 remain in Low Earth Orbit as of today. Out of the satellites in orbit, only 1,608 are operational and 470 are rising into an operational orbit at a higher altitude of approximately 540-kilometers.
SpaceX is steadily building the Starlink broadband constellation since May 2019. The company picked up its launch rate last year to expand service coverage in the United States and abroad. "SpaceX Falcon team is making excellent progress – aiming for 60 launches this year," said Musk, which is a record-breaking launch manifest. It is double the amount of Falcon 9 missions the company completed in 2021. Most of the rocket flights this year are also expected to be Starlink-dedicated missions to deploy more fleets of satellites to orbit.
The company is currently manufacturing 45 Starlink satellites per week at its satellite development facility located in Redmond, Washington. Each satellite is equipped a single solar array and use Krypton-powered Hall-effect thrusters for orbit raising and station keeping. The newest satellites feature advanced inter-satellite communication laser links for high-speed internet. “[…] We have the capacity to build up to 45 satellites per week, and we have launched up to 240 satellites in a single month," the company said, "This is an unprecedented rate of deployment for a complex space system — and reflects SpaceX’s commitment to increase broadband accessibility around the world with Starlink as soon as feasible."
The company is manufacturing 5,000 user terminal antennas per week. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told reporters the company sent "thousands" of Starlink user antennas to assist Ukraine during the horrible Russia invasion that has left some regions without reliable communication.
Ukrainian leaders shared that SpaceX sent multiple trucks loaded with Starlink kits that include all the necessary equipment to access the space-based Internet. The Ukraine Ministry of Health says a total of 590 SpaceX Starlink user terminals will be delivered to hospitals and health centers for civilian use.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX