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posted by chromas on Tuesday October 02 2018, @03:41PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

SpaceX's Starlink satellites may use unique solar array deployment mechanism

Spotted on an official SpaceX T-shirt commemorating Starlink's first two prototype satellites and corroborated through analysis of limited public photos of the spacecraft, SpaceX appears to be testing a relatively unique style of solar arrays on the first two satellites launched into orbit, known as Tintin A (Alice) and B (Bob).

It's difficult to judge anything concrete from the nature of what may be immature prototypes, but SpaceX's decision to take a major step away from its own style of solar expertise – Cargo Dragon's traditional rigid panel arrays – is almost certainly motivated by a need to push beyond the current state of the art of satellite design and production.

Unlike any discernible solar panel deployment mechanism with a flight history, SpaceX's Starlink engineers seem to have taken a style of deployment used successfully on the International Space Station and mixed it with a modern style of solar arrays, relying on several flexible panels that can be efficiently packed together and designed to be extremely lightweight. While a major departure from SpaceX's successful Cargo Dragon solar arrays, the mechanisms visible on the Tintins seem to have the potential to improve upon the packing efficiency, ease of manufacturing, and number of failure modes present on Dragon's panels.

[...] To give an idea of where the industry currently stands, satellite internet provider Viasat launched its own Viasat-2 spacecraft in 2017. Weighing in around 6500 kg (14300 lb), the immense satellite cost at least $600 million and offers an instantaneous bandwidth of 300 gigabits per second, impressive but also gobsmackingly expensive at $2 million/Gbps. To ever hope to make Starlink a reality, SpaceX will need to beat that value by at least a factor of 5-10, producing Starlink satellites for no more than $1-3 million apiece ($4.5B-$13.5B alone to manufacture the initial 4,425 satellite constellation) with a bandwidth of 20 Gbps – baselined in official statements.

"Starlink is a satellite constellation development project underway by SpaceX, to develop a low-cost, high-performance satellite bus and requisite customer ground transceivers to implement a new space-based Internet communication system. By 2017, SpaceX had submitted regulatory filings to launch a total of nearly 12,000 satellites to orbit by the mid-2020s."

Previously: SpaceX Deploys Broadband Test Satellites, Fails to Catch Entire Fairing
SpaceX Valued at $25 Billion... and More


Original Submission

Related Stories

SpaceX Deploys Broadband Test Satellites, Fails to Catch Entire Fairing 6 comments

SpaceX has launched the Paz satellite for a Spanish company using a Falcon 9 rocket, which also carried two secondary payloads: Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b. These are intended to test technologies needed to provide broadband Internet access from orbit:

SpaceX launched again on Thursday - this time to put a Spanish radar satellite above the Earth.

But there was a lot of interest also in the mission's secondary payloads - a couple of spacecraft the Californian rocket company will use to trial the delivery of broadband from orbit. SpaceX has big plans in this area. By sometime in the mid-2020s, it hopes to be operating more than 4,000 such satellites, linking every corner of Earth to the internet.

SpaceX projections show that the company expects its "Starlink" Internet service to have 40 million subscribers and $30 billion in revenue by 2025.

SpaceX also attempted to recover the $6 million payload fairing (nose cone) of the rocket using a specially-built "catcher's mitt" net boat called "Mr. Steven":

After launching its Falcon 9 rocket from California this morning, SpaceX used a giant net to try to recover the rocket's nose cone as it fell down in the Pacific Ocean. The first-time experiment failed, however: one of the pieces of the nose cone missed the net, which was attached to a ship, and landed intact on the sea surface instead.

[...] A typical rocket fairing doesn't have any onboard engines, however. So SpaceX has equipped its latest nose cone with a guidance system and thrusters, tiny engines that help guide the pieces through the atmosphere when they break away from the rocket. Then, as the pieces descend, they deploy thin parachute-like structures known as parafoils to slow their fall. Down at the surface, a SpaceX boat named Mr. Steven (a random name, Musk said) attempts to catch one of the fairing pieces with a giant net attached to large claw-like appendages.

SpaceX has been able to land its fairings in the ocean before, but this was the first time the company deployed Mr. Steven to catch one of the pieces. Musk noted that a fairing half missed the boat by a few hundred meters. However, the company should be able to fix the problem by making the parafoils bigger, he said.


Original Submission

SpaceX Valued at $25 Billion... and More 18 comments

SpaceX has raised $507 million, bringing the company's valuation to about $25 billion. That makes SpaceX the third most valuable venture-backed startup behind Uber and Airbnb, and also raises Elon Musk's worth by $1.4 billion to about $21.3 billion. SpaceX will launch NASA's TESS spacecraft on Monday, and plans to launch Bangabandhu-1 on May 5 using the Block 5 version of Falcon 9.

While SpaceX is planning to launch a record 30 missions in 2018, and possibly 50 missions in upcoming years, SpaceX expects the bulk of its future revenue to come from its upcoming Starlink satellite internet service. Internal documents show an estimate of $30 billion in revenue from Starlink and $5 billion from launches by 2025.

SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell has said that the company's BFR could be used for 100-person city-to-city flights within a decade:

A lot can (and probably will) change in a decade. But the idea is that a very large rocket, capable of carrying about 100 people, could fly like an aircraft and do point-to-point travel on Earth much faster than a plane — halfway across the globe in about 30 to 40 minutes, Shotwell said, landing on a pad five to 10 kilometers outside of a city center. Shotwell estimated the ticket cost would be somewhere between economy and business class on a plane — so, likely in the thousands of dollars for transoceanic travel. "But you do it in an hour."

"I'm personally invested in this one," she said, "because I travel a lot, and I do not love to travel. And I would love to get to see my customers in Riyadh, leave in the morning and be back in time to make dinner."

How could travel by rocket cost so little? Shotwell said the efficiency would come from being fast enough to be able to operate a route a dozen or so times a day, whereas a long-haul airplane often only does one flight per day.

She also said that the company could enable a manned mission to Mars within a decade. Boeing's CEO is also "hopeful" that humans will set foot on Mars within a decade.

Finally, Elon Musk has showed off an image of the main body tool/manufacturing mold for the BFR. BFR has a height of 106 meters and diameter of 9 meters, compared to a height of 70 meters and diameter of 3.7 meters for Falcon 9.


Original Submission

SpaceX Requests Permission to Launch an Additional 30,000 Starlink Satellites, to a Total of 42,000+ 12 comments

SpaceX submits paperwork for 30,000 more Starlink satellites

SpaceX has asked the International Telecommunication Union to arrange spectrum for 30,000 additional Starlink satellites. SpaceX, which is already planning the world's largest low-Earth-orbit broadband constellation by far, filed paperwork in recent weeks for up to 30,000 additional Starlink satellites on top of the 12,000 already approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC, on SpaceX's behalf, submitted 20 filings to the ITU for 1,500 satellites apiece in various low Earth orbits, an ITU official confirmed Oct. 15 to SpaceNews.

[...] In its filings, SpaceX said the additional 30,000 satellites would operate in low Earth orbit at altitudes ranging from 328 kilometers to 580 kilometers.

[...] It is not guaranteed that, by submitting numerous filings, SpaceX will build and launch 30,000 more satellites. Tim Farrar, a telecom analyst critical of SpaceX, tweeted that he was doubtful the ITU will be able to review such big filings in a timely manner. He sees the 20 separate filings as a SpaceX effort to "drown the ITU in studies" while proceeding with its constellation.

Nothing a Starship can't launch.

Starlink.

More coverage:


Original Submission

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Fired Managers and Employees in June to Shake Up Starlink Project 16 comments

Elon Musk went on firing spree over slow satellite broadband progress

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently "fired at least seven" managers in order to speed up development and testing of satellites that could provide broadband around the world, Reuters reported today.

SpaceX denied parts of the story, saying that some of those managers left of their own accord and that the firings happened over a longer period of time than Reuters claimed.

[...] Among the fired employees were SpaceX VP of Satellites Rajeev Badyal and top designer Mark Krebs, Reuters wrote. "Rajeev wanted three more iterations of test satellites," Reuters quoted one of its sources as saying. "Elon thinks we can do the job with cheaper and simpler satellites, sooner."

Reuters described a culture clash between Musk and employees hired from Microsoft, "where workers were more accustomed to longer development schedules than Musk's famously short deadlines." Badyal is a former Microsoft employee, while Krebs previously worked for Google."

Apparently, the test satellites work:

"We're using the Tintins to explore that modification," one of the SpaceX employee sources said. "They're happy and healthy and we're talking with them every time they pass a ground station, dozens of times a day."

SpaceX engineers have used the two test satellites to play online video games at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California and the Redmond office, the source said. "We were streaming 4k YouTube and playing 'Counter-Strike: Global Offensive' from Hawthorne to Redmond in the first week," the person added.

Also at SpaceNews and TechCrunch.

Related: SpaceX Deploys Broadband Test Satellites, Fails to Catch Entire Fairing
FCC Authorizes SpaceX to Provide Broadband Satellite Services
SpaceX Valued at $25 Billion... and More
SpaceX Starlink Satellite Prototypes Include Packed, Flexible Solar Arrays


Original Submission

SpaceX to Become World's Largest Satellite Operator; Launch, Booster Landing Successful [UPDATED] 18 comments

[UPDATE (20200107_023514 UTC): Launch went off smoothly and on time. Booster landed safely on the drone ship. Second stage is in proper orbit and currently in coast phase leading up to satellite deployment.]

With Monday night launch, SpaceX to become world's largest satellite operator:

In 2019 SpaceX launched two batches of 60 Starlink satellites—one experimental, and the second operational. On Monday, the company plans to add 60 more satellites with a nighttime launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

If all goes to plan, this mission will be just the first of as many as 20 Starlink launches this year as SpaceX builds up a constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide global Internet service. SpaceX may begin to offer "bumpy" service by the middle of this year to some consumers.

Following this next launch, scheduled for 9:19pm ET Monday (02:19 UTC Tuesday), SpaceX will have a constellation of nearly 180 satellites in low-Earth orbit, each weighing a little more than 220kg. This will make the company simultaneously the world's largest private satellite operator (eclipsing Planet Labs), while also being the most active private launch company.

[...] Monday night's launch attempt will occur on a Falcon 9 first stage that has flown three times previously, in September 2018 (Telstar 18 VANTAGE), January 2019 (Iridium-8), and May 2019 (the first experimental Starlink mission). After launching, the first stage will land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. Another vessel, "Ms. Tree," will attempt to recover a payload fairing half. The Starlink satellites themselves will deploy at 61 minutes into the mission, at an altitude of 290km.

A webcast of the mission should begin about 15 minutes prior to launch.

Link to the YouTube webcast.

Previously:


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

U.S. Air Force Awards SpaceX $28.7 Million to Study Military Applications of Starlink 5 comments

SpaceX's Starlink eyed by US military as co. raises $500-750M for development

In a reasonably predictable turn of events, SpaceX has been awarded a healthy $28.7M contract to study, develop, and test possible military applications of its prospective Starlink internet satellite constellation.

Previously reported by Teslarati in August 2018, FCC applications related to Starlink revealed that SpaceX had plans to develop and test Starlink interconnectivity with conformal antenna arrays installed on aircraft, all but directly pointing to military involvement with a reference to the need for aerial maneuvers "[representative] of a high-performance aircraft."

Around the same time as those FCC documents surfaced, the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) spoke with AviationWeek about plans to experiment with the potential capabilities offered by a flurry of proposed low Earth orbit (LEO) internet satellite constellations, including the likes of SpaceX's Starlink, OneWeb, a Telesat network, and others. While no specific companies were fingered in AFRL's public statements, it was far too convenient to be a coincidence. Four months later, the below transaction was published in the Department of Defense's running list of new contract awards:

"[SpaceX], Hawthorne, California, has been awarded a $28,713,994 competitive, firm-fixed-price ... agreement for experimentation ... in the areas of establishing connectivity [and] operational experimentation ... [and] will include connectivity demonstrations to Air Force ground sites and aircraft for experimental purposes. For the proposed Phase 2, the awardee proposes to perform experiments [with] early versions of a commercial space-to-space data relay service and mobile connectivity directly from space to aircraft." – Department of Defense, FBO FA8650-17-S-9300

Previously: FCC Authorizes SpaceX to Provide Broadband Satellite Services
SpaceX Starlink Satellite Prototypes Include Packed, Flexible Solar Arrays
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Fired Managers and Employees in June to Shake Up Starlink Project
Elon Musk's SpaceX Is Raising $500 Million in Funding; Now Valued at $30.5 Billion


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Tuesday October 02 2018, @03:47PM (5 children)

    by ikanreed (3164) on Tuesday October 02 2018, @03:47PM (#742848) Journal

    Whatever giant battery fire Musk started over at Tesla, it hasn't spread to the launchpad. Reusable rockets are a big deal, and dramatically reduce the price of space launches, so humanity still has a lot to gain. Starlink, if successful, will finally decouple the internet from last mile monopolies, though only being able service 10% of internet traffic in any given urban area means it can only have a modest impact there.

    But us cityfolk already have fiber, and infrastructure/person is cheap here. Seems like a great thing.

    • (Score: 2) by cmdrklarg on Tuesday October 02 2018, @06:10PM (3 children)

      by cmdrklarg (5048) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 02 2018, @06:10PM (#742978)

      Whatever giant battery fire Musk started over at Tesla

      There is no fire. Whatever drama there is going down around Musk and Tesla can mostly be traced back to the shorters. Musk got his hand slapped by the SEC, and is still running Tesla, which appears to be hitting their goals. SpaceX is privately held, so no shorters to make noise about them.

      I do hope Starlink works well; this could be the real competition needed to change how broadband internet is done in the US.

      --
      Dealing out the agony within
      • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Tuesday October 02 2018, @07:20PM (2 children)

        by ikanreed (3164) on Tuesday October 02 2018, @07:20PM (#743014) Journal

        Nothing like a nebulous secret cabal of hero-haters who just want to destroy you for no reason at all to explain hitting 5k/month manufacturing 2 years late, when 100k/month was promised, gross manufacturing flaws, and enron-style accounting changes. Tesla is suffering on all the fundamentals durable goods manufacturers need to mind. All of them except brand-awareness.

        • (Score: 2) by cmdrklarg on Tuesday October 02 2018, @09:41PM (1 child)

          by cmdrklarg (5048) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 02 2018, @09:41PM (#743080)

          Not sure where you're getting your numbers, but the stock market seems to be happy with what Tesla is doing, even after all the short's doom and gloom, and the SEC slap on the wrist.

          Doesn't matter to me to be honest; I can't afford a Tesla, and by the time someone gets around to selling what I want (small electric pickup truck) I might be six feet under. I just have a problem with people who profit off of FUD.

          No reason at all? Is $2 billion enough of a reason? https://www.marketwatch.com/story/tesla-short-sellers-are-sitting-on-a-more-than-1-billion-paper-loss-after-stock-rally-2018-08-02 [marketwatch.com]

          --
          Dealing out the agony within
          • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Tuesday October 02 2018, @09:57PM

            by ikanreed (3164) on Tuesday October 02 2018, @09:57PM (#743088) Journal

            Buddy, I don't know how to tell you this, but the stock market is useless for measuring anything actually meaningful.

            As to the short sellers, I'm gonna repeat advice that everyone should hold in their heads: Unless you're literally insider trading, never short sell. Stock prices can float on dumb assumptions years past any good sense.

            Take long positions on things you think have real value. Take short positions on stocks you're currently holding, where you cease to believe that. Leverage is for idiots who think their geniuses and lottery addicts.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday October 02 2018, @06:42PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday October 02 2018, @06:42PM (#742992) Journal
      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday October 02 2018, @04:14PM (1 child)

    by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday October 02 2018, @04:14PM (#742869)

    Company building weight-constrained highly-expensive toys may be using proven weight-saving technique.
    Next: Is SpaceX relying on speed to prevent sats from falling back down ?

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday October 02 2018, @04:23PM

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 02 2018, @04:23PM (#742881) Journal

      Next: Is SpaceX relying on speed to prevent sats from falling back down ?

      That would be velocity (as in: a vector quantity) rather than just speed (the scalar quantity with the direction disregarded)
      </pedantic_mode>

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: -1, Troll) by MyOpinion on Friday October 05 2018, @02:21AM

    by MyOpinion (6561) on Friday October 05 2018, @02:21AM (#744464) Homepage Journal

    What is their altitude?

    What is, allegedly, the temperature at that altitude?

    What are those satellites made of?

    Can you guess the next question?

    --
    Truth is like a Lion: you need not defend it; let it loose, and it defends itself. https://discord.gg/3FScNwc
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