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posted by martyb on Tuesday April 09 2019, @09:31PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

SpaceX's first batch of operational Starlink satellites will launch no earlier than May 2019:

SpaceX has announced a launch target of May 2019 for the first batch of operational Starlink satellites in a sign that the proposed internet satellite constellation has reached a major milestone, effectively transitioning from pure research and development to serious manufacturing.

R&D will continue as SpaceX Starlink engineers work to implement the true final design of the first several hundred or thousand spacecraft, but a significant amount of the team's work will now be centered on producing as many Starlink satellites as possible, as quickly as possible. With anywhere from 4400 to nearly 12,000 satellites needed to complete the three major proposed phases of Starlink, SpaceX will have to build and launch more than 2200 satellites in the next five years, averaging 44 high-performance, low-cost spacecraft built and launched every month for the next 60 months.

[...] According to SpaceX filings with the FCC, the first group of operational satellites – potentially anywhere from 75 to 1000 or more – will rely on just one band ("Ku") for communications instead of the nominal two ("Ku" and "Ka"), a change that SpaceX says will significantly simplify the first spacecraft. By simplifying them, SpaceX believes it can expedite Starlink's initial deployment without losing a great deal of performance or interfering with constellations from competitors like OneWeb.

Amazon's planned 3,236-satellite broadband constellation, Project Kuiper, is being developed by former SpaceX employees:

Amazon's satellite internet plan is increasingly looking like the one Elon Musk has at SpaceX, with thousands of spacecraft that are compact in size. Among the reasons for the similarities, people tell CNBC, is that Jeff Bezos has hired some of Musk's previous senior management.

Former SpaceX vice president of satellites Rajeev Badyal and a couple members of his team are now leading Amazon's Project Kuiper, people familiar with the situation told CNBC.

[...] Badyal previously ran the "Starlink" division at SpaceX, which launched its first two test satellites last year. [...] Musk fired Badyal in June, one of the people said, confirming reports last year that the SpaceX CEO had become frustrated with the pace of Starlink's development. That was about four months after the launch of the first two Starlink test satellites. According to FCC documents, Starlink will become operational once at least 800 satellites are deployed.

Previously: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Fired Managers and Employees in June to Shake Up Starlink Project
SpaceX Seeks Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations, Faces Pentagon Audit
SpaceX and OneWeb Clash Over Proposed Satellite Constellation Orbits

Related: Relativity Space Selected to Launch Satellites for Telesat


Original Submission

Related Stories

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 Seeks Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations, Faces Pentagon Audit 15 comments

SpaceX seeks FCC OK for 1 million satellite broadband Earth stations

SpaceX is seeking US approval to deploy up to 1 million Earth stations to receive transmissions from its planned satellite broadband constellation.

The Federal Communications Commission last year gave SpaceX permission to deploy 11,943 low-Earth orbit satellites for the planned Starlink system. A new application from SpaceX Services, a sister company, asks the FCC for "a blanket license authorizing operation of up to 1,000,000 Earth stations that end-user customers will utilize to communicate with SpaceX's NGSO [non-geostationary orbit] constellation."

The application was published by FCC.report, a third-party site that tracks FCC filings. GeekWire reported the news on Friday. An FCC spokesperson confirmed to Ars today that SpaceX filed the application on February 1, 2019.

If each end-user Earth station provides Internet service to one building, SpaceX could eventually need authorization for more than 1 million stations in the US. SpaceX job listings describe the user terminal as "a high-volume manufactured product customers will have in their homes."

SpaceX and OneWeb Clash Over Proposed Satellite Constellation Orbits 6 comments

SpaceX's Starlink satellite lawyers refute latest "flawed" OneWeb critique

After years of relentless legal badgering from internet satellite constellation competitor OneWeb, SpaceX's regulatory and legal affairs team appears to have begun to (in a professional manner) lose patience with the constant barrage.

On February 21st, SpaceX published a withering refutation of OneWeb's latest criticism that offered a range of no-holds-barred counterarguments, painting the competitor – or at least its legal affairs department – as an entity keen on trying to undermine Starlink with FCC-directed critiques based on flawed reasoning, false assumptions, misinterpretations, and more. Alongside a number of memorable one-liners and retorts, legal counselors William Wiltshire and Paul Caritj and SpaceX executives Patricia Cooper and David Goldman openly "wonder whether OneWeb would be satisfied with SpaceX operating at any altitude whatsoever."

In late 2018, SpaceX filed a request with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) that would allow the company to significantly modify parts of its Starlink satellite constellation license, cutting 16 spacecraft from the original total of 4425 and moving Phase 1's now-1584 satellites from an operating altitude of ~1100-1300 km (680-810 mi) to just 550 km (340 mi). Aside from further reducing the latency of communications, SpaceX also argues that "the principal reason" behind lowering the operational altitude of the first ~37% of Starlink satellites was "to [further] enhance the already considerable space safety attributes of [the] constellation."

[...] [There] is a great deal more irony to be found in OneWeb's attempt to block SpaceX from lowering the orbit of its first ~1600 satellites. In 2017 and 2018, the company repeatedly complained to the FCC about the fact that SpaceX's Starlink constellation was to nominally be placed in orbits from ~1100-1300 km, effectively sandwiching OneWeb's own ~1200 km constellation. OneWeb continues to demand an unreasonable level of special treatment from the FCC, hoping that the commission will allow it to establish a sort of buffer zone extending 125 km above and below its own constellation, basically demanding that a huge swath of low Earth orbit be OneWeb's and OneWeb's alone. In reality, this is likely nothing more than a thinly veiled anti-competitive tactic, in which success would almost entirely bar other prospective space-based internet providers from even considering the same orbit.

Starlink and OneWeb satellite constellations.

Related: Competing Communications Constellations Considered
Airbus and OneWeb Begin Building Satellites for Internet Constellation
FCC Authorizes SpaceX to Provide Broadband Satellite Services
U.S. Air Force Awards SpaceX $28.7 Million to Study Military Applications of Starlink
Blue Origin to Provide Multiple Orbital Launches for Telesat
SpaceX Seeks Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations, Faces Pentagon Audit


Original Submission

Amazon Planning its Own Satellite-Based Broadband Service, with 3,236 Satellites in Low Earth Orbit 15 comments

Amazon to offer broadband access from orbit with 3,236-satellite 'Project Kuiper' constellation

Amazon is joining the race to provide broadband internet access around the globe via thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit, newly uncovered filings show.

The effort, code-named Project Kuiper, follows up on last September's mysterious reports that Amazon was planning a "big, audacious space project" involving satellites and space-based systems. The Seattle-based company is likely to spend billions of dollars on the project, and could conceivably reap billions of dollars in revenue once the satellites go into commercial service.

It'll take years to bring the big, audacious project to fruition, however, and Amazon could face fierce competition from SpaceX, OneWeb and other high-profile players.

[...] The filings lay out a plan to put 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit — including 784 satellites at an altitude of 367 miles (590 kilometers); 1,296 satellites at a height of 379 miles (610 kilometers); and 1,156 satellites in 391-mile (630-kilometer) orbits.

In response to GeekWire's inquiries, Amazon confirmed that Kuiper Systems is actually one of its projects.

"Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world," an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision."

Amazon said the satellites would provide data coverage for spots on Earth ranging in latitude from 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south. About 95 percent of the world's population lives within that wide swath of the planet.

Relativity Space Selected to Launch Satellites for Telesat

Relativity Space announces first launch contract, and it's a big one

The ambitious rocket company Relativity announced its first customer on Friday, the global satellite operator Telesat. The contract for flights on the Terran 1 rocket includes "multiple" launches, but Relativity chief executive Tim Ellis said he could not provide additional details.

[...] Relativity considers this a huge win because it offers another validation of its—and really, this is not an exaggeration—revolutionary approach to launch. The company aspires to use large 3D printers to manufacture nearly the entirety of a rocket, thereby automating the process and taking another step toward low-cost, launch-on-demand service. It's one thing for a private company to build a new rocket to launch small satellites, it's another to try and remake the manufacturing process as well.

Ellis said Telesat has been in discussions with Relativity for awhile, so the satellite operator has had good access to Relativity's launch technology. After this due diligence, Telesat chose Relativity in addition to previous deals with SpaceX, Arianespace, and Blue Origin. Effectively, Telesat has decided that Relativity's Terran 1 booster, with a capacity of 1.25 tons to low Earth orbit, has the right stuff to help launch a major low Earth orbit satellite constellation that will provide global broadband connectivity.

Previously: Relativity Space Leases Land at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi
Aerospace Startup Making 3D-Printed Rockets Now Has a Launch Site at America's Busiest Spaceport
Blue Origin to Provide Multiple Orbital Launches for Telesat

Related: Amazon Planning its Own Satellite-Based Broadband Service, with 3,236 Satellites in Low Earth Orbit


Original Submission

Three of SpaceX's Starlink Satellites have Failed 27 comments

SpaceX's Starlink program launched an initial sixty satellites on May 23. At least three of these "are no longer in service" and "will passively deorbit." according to a spokesperson for the company.

In other words, the three spacecraft failed and will fall back to Earth, likely within a year because of their relatively low orbit of 273 miles (440 kilometers) above the planet's surface.

SpaceX seems relatively unfazed by the failures, though, since the company never expected all of them to function perfectly given the mission's experimental nature.

SpaceX intentionally implemented the satellites with minor variations.

On a brighter note, 45 of the satellites, which are equipped with small ion engines for maneuvering, have already reached their intended orbits. Five are moving towards their orbits, and five are pending evaluation before maneuvering. Another "[t]wo satellites are being intentionally deorbited to simulate an end of life disposal."

[N]ow that the majority of the satellites have reached their operational altitude, SpaceX will begin using the constellation to start transmitting broadband signals, testing the latency and capacity by streaming videos and playing some high bandwidth video games using gateways throughout North America.

The Starlink program was stung by early comments that the program was negatively affecting astronomy and SpaceX

added that it "continues to monitor the visibility of the satellites as they approach their final orbit" and that they will be measured for their visibility from the ground once there. Those comments are likely meant to address concerns lodged by astronomers about the reflectivity of Starlink spacecraft

The satellites are designed to completely disintegrate upon entering Earth's atmosphere, and the failures may help drive future iterations.

Previous Coverage
Most of SpaceX's Starlink Internet Satellites are Already on Track
SpaceX Satellites Pose New Headache for Astronomers
Third Time's the Charm! SpaceX Launch Good; Starlink Satellite Deployment Coming Up [Updated]
SpaceX to Launch 60 Starlink Satellites: Postponed 1 Day Due to Upper Altitude Winds [UPDATE 2]
SpaceX to Launch 60 Starlink Satellites at Once, and More
SpaceX's First Dedicated Starlink Launch Set for May; Amazon Hired SpaceX Execs for Project Kuiper


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:


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  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 09 2019, @09:46PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 09 2019, @09:46PM (#827126)

    As soon as the Californian wingnuts realize that Musk and Bezos are planning on beaming cancer-causing wifi from satellites, it's game over.

  • (Score: 2) by corey on Wednesday April 10 2019, @02:07AM (4 children)

    by corey (2202) on Wednesday April 10 2019, @02:07AM (#827214)

    With that many sats up there, it'll be like navigating peak hour traffic for future rocket launches. But I don't know the details.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by takyon on Wednesday April 10 2019, @02:29AM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday April 10 2019, @02:29AM (#827221) Journal

      Or not.

      There are about a billion cars roaming the surface area of the planet. Low-Earth orbit is a three-dimensional volume with larger than the surface of the Earth at any given altitude, and the satellites are at multiple orbits.

      10,000 to 20,000 sats is nothing, and all of it is tracked. 1 billion pieces of space debris (smashed sats) could be a problem, except that all of the sats in SpaceX's constellation are designed to deorbit and burn after 7 years or so. Amazon's sats will also be required to do so.

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    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by tibman on Wednesday April 10 2019, @04:18AM (2 children)

      by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday April 10 2019, @04:18AM (#827281)

      It sounds crowded but imagine if the entire surface of the earth was a road and there was only 20,000 cars on the entire planet. Would you ever even see another car? Now make the radius of the sphere even bigger and change the size of the cars down to a toaster.

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      • (Score: 5, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday April 10 2019, @05:24AM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday April 10 2019, @05:24AM (#827299) Journal

        To add some numbers:

        Radius of Earth = 6371 km
        Surface area of Earth (land, water, everything) = 510 million km2

        LEOR+340 = 6711 km
        Surface area = 566 million km2

        That's the approx. lowest orbit for Starlink, with up to 7,518 satellites.

        LEOR+550 = 6921 km
        Surface area = 602 million km2

        This is a newer Starlink orbit, about 1,500 satellites.

        LEOR+1200 = 7571 km
        Surface area = 720 million km2

        Highest orbit, about 2,900 satellites (previously 4,425).

        SpaceX will need to replenish these satellites in initial decades (later they could seek approval to keep them up longer and even use air-breathing ion propulsion). Maybe they will add more to the total number of satellites in order to improve service reliability, if Starlink proves to be a huge revenue stream.

        Amazon has its few thousand. Other constellations will probably be on the small side since no company will be able to launch as cheaply as SpaceX can (combined with SpaceX launching at cost). Other countries will launch their own, e.g. China will have its own constellation with surveillance baked in, while not allowing ground stations for SpaceX, Amazon, Telesat, etc. to operate.

        Put it all together, and what do you get? Probably less than 100,000, definitely less than 1 million. But that's just LEO internet broadband satellites. You'll also see increased numbers of smallsats and cubesats as small launchers and Starship take off. So... increase by an order of magnitude. You're still at 10 million, tops. Dwarfed by the billion cars on the ground, and all satellites will be closely tracked.

        SpaceX's satellites will be bigger than a toaster [skyrocket.de], but still not significantly large (not like having thousands of Stanford tori in orbit).

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 10 2019, @07:21PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 10 2019, @07:21PM (#827581)

        Only the satellites are 1000 times faster than cars and and their great circles necessarily cross if the constellation covers a wide area. Add a pinch of non-spec behavior, and satellites in well-designed safe orbits turn into 7 km/s bumper cars.

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