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 [soylentnews.org], is being developed by former SpaceX employees [cnbc.com]:
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 [cnbc.com]. [...] Musk fired Badyal in June, one of the people said, confirming reports [reuters.com] 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 [soylentnews.org]
SpaceX Seeks Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations, Faces Pentagon Audit [soylentnews.org]
SpaceX and OneWeb Clash Over Proposed Satellite Constellation Orbits [soylentnews.org]
Related: Relativity Space Selected to Launch Satellites for Telesat [soylentnews.org]