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posted by chromas on Tuesday October 02 2018, @03:41PM   Printer-friendly

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


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  • (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.

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  • (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]

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      • (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.