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posted by martyb on Monday January 06 2020, @09:17PM   Printer-friendly

[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.


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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday January 09 2020, @03:47AM (2 children)

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Thursday January 09 2020, @03:47AM (#941312) Journal

    Enabling the cheap+fast launch of cheap and/or giant space telescopes is the way that Starship both causes and fixes the problem of too much stuff in orbit "ruining" astronomy.

    The advantages that ground based telescopes have are going to wane in the coming years. You can deploy telescopes in space that have structures that would not be sound on Earth in the presence of weight and wind. It's possible that optical interferometry will be easier in space.

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  • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Thursday January 09 2020, @05:27AM (1 child)

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 09 2020, @05:27AM (#941337) Journal

    It also solves the light pollution issue and doesn't involve building on any protected heritage sites. +1 +1

    I don't think Starlink is going to be the thing that kills terrestrial astronomy. My guess is it's orbital solar power that does it in. I hope one day my kids will be able to look up in the night sky and see massive reflectors. That would be pretty cool.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday January 09 2020, @05:57AM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Thursday January 09 2020, @05:57AM (#941343) Journal

      That would be wild, and China is expressing interest [].

      But I would expect that Starlink will only dominate the total number of satellites for a while. Starlink will reach 40-50k satellites, and other competitors (Amazon/Blue Origin, Telesat, China...) will eventually raise the total to 200k+. 1 million satellites and other objects in Earth orbit sounds realistic within the coming decades. If there is a linear relationship between the number of satellites and ground-based data quality, then R.I.P.

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