On Sunday, February 26, SpaceX revealed a stack of the new Starlink V2 'Mini' satellites ahead of being placed inside of Falcon 9’s payload fairing for the upcoming launch. 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,” shared company representatives via Twitter. “This means Starlink can provide more bandwidth with increased reliability and connect millions of more people around the world with high-speed internet.”
SpaceX plans to launch the stack of 21 Starlink V2 Mini satellites to orbit on Monday, February 27 at 1:49 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. SpaceX received 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.
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— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 26, 2023
“Since the original license to operate the Starlink Generation 1 network was granted in March 2018, SpaceX has rapidly deployed satellites to bring internet to the hardest to reach places in the United States and abroad. Five years later, SpaceX has launched nearly 4,000 satellites and is providing high speed internet to more than one million locations around the world, the majority of which are households,” said the company, “Starlink continues to grow rapidly, and SpaceX has raced to keep up with a surging demand for connectivity across the United States and across the globe, especially in areas where few, if any, options for broadband connections have existed before now.”
“With the recent authorization of our second-generation network [...] SpaceX will provide even faster speeds to more users. This new authorization enables SpaceX to launch additional, much-improved spacecraft with significantly more throughput per satellite than the first-generation systems. For the end consumer, this means more bandwidth and increased reliability. As a result, millions of more Americans will have access to high-speed internet no matter where they live,” the company said.
On Sunday, SpaceX shared some details about the Starlink V2 Mini satellites. “Among other enhancements, V2 minis are equipped with new argon Hall thrusters for on orbit maneuvering,” they captioned a photo of the thrusters, shown below. “Developed by SpaceX engineers, they have 2.4x the thrust and 1.5x the specific impulse of our first gen[eration] thrusters. This will also be the first time ever that argon Hall thrusters are operated in space.” Additional details are listed in the Tweet linked below.
Among other enhancements, V2 minis are equipped with new argon Hall thrusters for on orbit maneuvering pic.twitter.com/4G5nI3zsyX— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 26, 2023
Argon Hall thruster tech specs:— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 26, 2023
- 170 mN thrust
- 2500 s specific impulse
- 50% total efficiency
- 4.2 kW power
- 2.1 kg mass
- Center mounted cathode
The company also said that the V2 Minis have improvements to mitigate brightness in order to decrease their visibility in the night sky. “SpaceX continues development with additional technologies, including a combination of dielectric mirror film (developed and made by SpaceX), which reflects sunlight away from the Earth, and the SpaceX-developed, low-reflectivity black paint, which reduces lower specular peak by a factor of five compared to the darkest available space stable paint. These improvements are implemented on our V2 satellites. With several years of experience and the ability to design, test, and field mitigation strategies, mitigations were able to be ‘baked into’ the design of the V2 satellites from the start,” shared the company. “Additionally, we’ve designed our solar arrays to allow off-pointing to reduce reflections as a satellite approaches the terminator. So, while our V2 Mini satellites are larger than earlier versions, we’re still expecting them to be as dark or darker once the full range of mitigations are implemented and the satellites reach their operational orbit.”
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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.