SpaceX Launches First 60 Starlink Satellites

maxresdefaultSpaceX has successfully launched the first 60 Starlink satellites (following two initial test satellites last year). There is a lot of press covering this launch. The best review article I’ve seen is by Stephen Clark on SpaceflightNow.

Key points:

  • SpaceX has surprised the industry by launching 60 satellites. Most analysts were predicting a smaller number of satellites per launch. SpaceX is undoubtedly working to build even smaller, lighter, more powerful satellites, so the number of satellites per launch is likely to grow.
  • SpaceX reports it will launch between two and six more Starlink missions this year, depending on results from their initial launch. This suggests that hundreds more satellites could be in orbit by Christmas.
  • SpaceX claims an operational system requires 400 satellites, while a commercially viable system would require 800. SpaceX has the launch capability to meet those targets by 2020.
  • SpaceX used a booster that has flown twice previously (and has been paid for — twice — by other customers). The booster was recovered and will be assessed for future flights.
  • SpaceX landed the two fairing halves in the ocean and recovered them. The company appears to be exploring the reuse of fairings even if contaminated by sea water — which would allow SpaceX to drop efforts to catch fairings in a giant net.
  • OneWeb, SpaceX’s greatest competitor in satellite internet, is scheduled for up to 20 launches over the next two years. Each launch will carry up to 36 satellites.
  • Sixty satellites traversing the night sky prompted UFO alerts.
  • SpaceX launched a new Starlink website.

Satellite internet still has many technical, business and regulatory hurdles to overcome — but it just took a giant step closer to reality.

 

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