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posted by martyb on Tuesday October 29 2019, @02:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the AKA-BFS dept.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell has revealed that Starship can carry 400 Starlinks satellites into orbit, up from the 60 recently launched using a Falcon 9 rocket. The cost per launch may be negligible:

Beyond Shotwell's clear confidence that Starlink's satellite technology is far beyond OneWeb and years ahead of Amazon's Project Kuiper clone, she also touched on yet another strength: SpaceX's very own vertically-integrated launch systems. OneWeb plans to launch the vast majority of its Phase 1 constellation on Arianespace's commercial Soyuz rockets, with the launch contract alone expected to cost more than $1B for ~700 satellites.

SpaceX, on the other hand, owns, builds, and operates its own rocket factory and high-performance orbital launch vehicles and is the only company on Earth to have successfully fielded reusable rockets. In short, although Starlink's voracious need for launch capacity will undoubtedly require some major direct investments, a large portion of SpaceX's Starlink launch costs can be perceived as little more than the cost of propellant, work-hours, and recovery fleet operations. Boosters (and hopefully fairings) can be reused ad nauseum and so long as SpaceX sticks to its promise to put customer missions first, the practical opportunity cost of each Starlink launch should be close to zero.

[...] Shotwell revealed that a single Starship-Super Heavy launch should be able to place at least 400 Starlink satellites in orbit – a combined payload mass of ~120 metric tons (265,000 lb). Even if the cost of a Starship launch remained identical to Starlink v0.9's flight-proven Falcon 9, packing almost seven times as many Starlink satellites would singlehandedly cut the relative cost of launch per satellite by more than the 5X figure Musk noted.

In light of this new figure of 400 satellites per individual Starship launch, it's far easier to understand why SpaceX took the otherwise ludicrous step of reserving space for tens of thousands more Starlink satellites. Even if SpaceX arrives at a worst-case-scenario and is only able to launch Starship-Super Heavy once every 4-8 weeks for the first several years, that could translate to 2400-4800 Starlink satellites placed in orbit every year. Given that 120 tons to LEO is well within Starship's theoretical capabilities without orbital refueling, it's entirely possible that Starship could surpass Falcon 9's Starlink mass-to-orbit almost immediately after it completes its first orbital launch and recovery: a single Starship launch would be equivalent to almost 7 Falcon 9 missions.

The Starlink constellation can begin commercial operations with just 360-400 satellites, or 1,200 for global coverage. SpaceX has demonstrated a 610 Mbps connection to an in-flight U.S. military C-12 aircraft. SpaceX is planning to launch 60 additional Starlink satellites in November, marking the first reuse of a thrice-flown Falcon 9 booster.

Also at CNBC.

Previously: Third Time's the Charm! SpaceX Launch Good; Starlink Satellite Deployment Coming Up [Updated]
SpaceX Provides Update on Starship with Assembled Prototype as the Backdrop
SpaceX Requests Permission to Launch an Additional 30,000 Starlink Satellites, to a Total of 42,000+
Elon Musk Sends Tweet Via SpaceX's Starlink Satellite Broadband
SpaceX: Land Starship on Moon Before 2022, Then Do Cargo Runs for 2024 Human Landing


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by jmichaelhudsondotnet on Tuesday October 29 2019, @03:14PM (3 children)

    by jmichaelhudsondotnet (8122) on Tuesday October 29 2019, @03:14PM (#913286) Journal

    So if 1000 satellites beamed at someone's head at full power, could they explode someone's head or otherwise kill them?

    What are the limits of what these things, with all constructive interference, harmonics and resonance going on, could do to a human being?

    One day there will be no more Mr. Musk and it will just be the shadowy head of VersizonandTandT corp and there won't even be a way to ask this question.

    Peoples' heads could explode like on war of the worlds and at that point there is nothing you could do but run and hide and/or play dumb.

    We are being written into a gruesome sci fi story where the people making decisions have never read any sci fi, so.....

    Gosh the people setting up the species for extinction are getting so rich at it!

    thesesytemsarefailing.net

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  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30 2019, @12:27AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30 2019, @12:27AM (#913508)

    These are communications satellites, not power satellites, so their transmit power isn't very high. They are also flying very low so you will never have more than a small fraction above the horizon at any given moment. They need 1200 for global coverage, which should mean three visible satellites at a time from anywhere. If they up that to 12k total, that would still only be 30 visible at a time.

    • (Score: 2) by jmichaelhudsondotnet on Wednesday October 30 2019, @06:39PM (1 child)

      by jmichaelhudsondotnet (8122) on Wednesday October 30 2019, @06:39PM (#913823) Journal

      Thanks, informative.

      Just because low power does not mean not capable to harm humans, but guess we'll have to wait and see.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31 2019, @01:16AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31 2019, @01:16AM (#913968)

        Your nearest cell phone tower puts more radiation through your head than the Spacex satellites could, even if they devoted the entire constellation to beaming full power directly at you.