A detailed update on SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation


Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

Link here. With yesterday’s launch, SpaceX now has put 420 satellites in orbit.

In a recent interview with Aviation Week, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that they should begin beta testing the network this year and would want to complete around 14 launches before publicly promoting Starlink service. That could allow service to begin as soon as early 2021 depending on how fast launches can be performed.

In a recent ITU filing, SpaceX laid out a very aggressive schedule for continuing the Starlink deployment, with 13 launches in the May to September time period. This schedule is likely to spread out a bit as they run into normal launch cadence issues such as weather, range coordination, booster recovery operations, and booster refurbishment.

The first launch in that group (June 3 in Florida) has been delayed nearly a month for the above reasons. Regardless of exactly how long those launches end up taking, Ms. Shotwell’s comments indicate SpaceX doesn’t think satellite production will be a gating factor for their deployments in the near future.

An interesting feature of the schedule is that after this frenzy of launches, there would be a gap with only one launch in four months, followed by a period of twice-monthly launches to finish out the initial 1584 satellite shell of the constellation. SpaceX may have options to make changes to the satellites during that pause in the deployments, such as adding the optical inter-satellite links that have been mentioned as debuting later in 2020.

The article then provides a great deal of information about the system’s design and status for beginning operations in the U.S. Well worth a close read.

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5 comments

  • Jay

    Good article. This is the first one that actually talks about the connection speed: 100Mbps down/40Mbps up. All the past articles I have read described a speed of 1Gb. Still that 100Mbps service is better than what I have now.
    Still no price per month. I know there was talk about the price of the receiver being anywhere from $150 to $300.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Actually, there are now 475 working Starlink birds in orbit – 55 of the 0.9 version and 420 of the 1.0 version. It looks as though the minimum number required to begin service in at least part of the U.S. and Canada could be in place by somewhere between Labor Day and Halloween. The initial service area could be significantly expanded by year’s end.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Okay, forget what I just wrote above. Egg on my face is what I deservedly get for not reading the linked article first.

    The remaining 55 version 0.9 birds are all in the process of being de-orbited. Combined with a few reported stillbirths and crib deaths among the version 1.0 birds, there are about 410 – 415 good units currently up. I also didn’t realize it takes roughly two months to get a bird from deployment orbit up to operational orbit. So that “early 2021” timeframe for an initial service offering in the linked story is looking about right.

    Given the number of customer launches still to come in 2020, launching another dozen or so Starlink missions by year’s end is going to make for busy times at KSC and Canaveral the rest of this year. That can probably still be done without requiring any new pad turnaround records being set via judicious scheduling of LC-39A and SLC-40, but there probably will be a lot more 10-to-14-day pad turnarounds than we’ve ever seen before over a sustained period. To minimize demand on the two drone ships and the two fairing catchers, every opportunity for an LZ-1 landing is certain to be taken. The three launches currently scheduled from Vandenberg in Nov. and Dec. look like they will come just in time to relieve a bit of pressure in FL and still allow for a maximum push at KSC and Canaveral at the same time.

    Add in the full court press being put on Starship – and perhaps even Super Heavy before long – at Boca Chica and it seems there is likely to be significant SpaceX news at least once a week from now into the indefinite future.

    On another matter, Bob, could you re-post the instructions for submitting Evening Pause candidates? I can’t seem to find them anywhere with the site search tool.

  • Dick Eagleton: The instructions for suggesting evening pauses are not on the website. I will email them to you.

  • wayne

    Dick-
    if I may….

    Mr. Z’s email address is in the “about’ section, bottom of the text. Put “evening pause” in the Subject line and submit.

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