SpaceX Falcon 9 launches third fleet of Starlink V2 'Mini' satellites

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches third fleet of Starlink V2 'Mini' satellites

SpaceX already provides high-speed Starlink satellite internet to over 1.5 million subscribers globally. Today, May 19, it launched the third fleet of Starlink V2 ‘Mini’ satellites which are part of the Starlink second-generation (Gen2) system designed to increase the internet network’s capabilities. The Starlink V2 Minis are a smaller version of a future iteration of the V2 satellites which will be much larger and require Starship to launch them. “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,” says the company. The third Starlink V2 Mini satellite mission comes exactly a month after the second fleet which launched on April 19. 

A flight-proven Falcon 9 lifted off at 2:19 a.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The rocket was initially scheduled to launch at 12:41 a.m. ET but weather conditions along Florida's coast delayed the mission. Engineers waited to launch until the rainy weather improved a couple hours later.
The reused Falcon 9 first-stage booster supporting this mission is identified as B1076-5 which previously launched: NASA's 26th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-26) mission to the International Space Station, OneWeb Launch 16, Intelsat IS-40e, and now two Starlink missions. Approximately 8 minutes after liftoff, the booster was recovered a fifth time; it performed a propulsive landing on the 'A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship' which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean around 530 kilometers downrange. As of today, SpaceX has landed orbital-class rockets 192 times and reused 166 times – a truly historic achievement! SpaceX has made launching and recovering rockets routine unlike any other company in the space industry. Today's mission marked the 32nd orbital mission of 2023 (excluding Starship test flight). SpaceX is on track to complete a launch manifest of up to 100 missions this year, according to SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. 


The fleet of 22 Starlink V2 Mini satellites was released by Falcon 9's upper-stage to orbit around an hour after liftoff. The satellites in this fleet belong to Starlink Group 6-3 which is the third fleet of Gen2 satellites that will operate in a 43° degree circular orbit at 530 kilometers above Earth. The satellites will unfurl their two solar arrays and use their onboard Argon Hall thrusters to raise into their operational orbit in the weeks ahead. According to data collected by Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, SpaceX now operates around 4,157 Starlink satellites in Low Earth Orbit. The company has approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy a total of 7,500 Starlink Gen2 satellites in the coming years. SpaceX aims to achieve sending Starship to orbit this year to begin launching the full-size Starlink Gen2 satellites as soon as its an operational vehicle. Starship will be able to carry significantly more mass than Falcon 9 to rapidly complete the broadband constellation.

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Featured Image Source: SpaceX Mission Broadcast 

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

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.

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