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SpaceX to Launch 60 Starlink Satellites: 90min Window Opens 2230EDT May15 (0230 UTC May16)

Accepted submission by martyb at 2019-05-15 13:29:44
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Yesterday, we posted a story SpaceX to Launch 60 Starlink Satellites at Once, and More [soylentnews.org]. Here are a few more details about Starlink and — more importantly — the launch schedule and a link to the YouTube page to follow along.

SpaceX plans to launch 60 satellites tonight for its next round of development and test towards its goal of deploying Starlink [wikipedia.org]:

SpaceX has plans to deploy nearly 12,000 satellites in three orbital shells by the mid-2020s: initially placing approximately 1600 in a 550-kilometer (340 mi)-altitude shell, subsequently placing ~2800 Ku- and Ka-band spectrum sats at 1,150 km (710 mi) and ~7500 V-band sats at 340 km (210 mi). The total cost of the decade-long project to design, build and deploy such a network is estimated at nearly US$10 billion.

According to spaceflightnow [spaceflightnow.com]:

The Federal Communications Commission has granted a request by SpaceX to begin launching spacecraft for the company’s Starlink broadband network to a lower orbit than originally planned, overruling protests by competitors and clearing a major regulatory hurdle before the launch of the first batch of Internet satellites from Cape Canaveral in May.

The regulatory commission approved SpaceX’s proposal Friday to fly more than 1,500 of its Starlink satellites at an altitude of 341 miles, or 550 kilometers, instead of the 714-mile-high (1,150-kilometer) orbit originally planned.

These would be in what is called low Earth orbit (LEO) [wikipedia.org] which ultimately promises to rival terrestrial gigabit fiber connections. Current satellite internet connections communicate with satellites that are in geostationary orbit (GEO) [wikipedia.org] where they stay over a fixed point on Earth. To do so, they orbit at an altitude of approximately 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above the equator. Even at the speed of light, that imposes a minimum round-trip delay of 250ms. To access satellites in LEO, a user's ground station would employ a steerable phased array antenna about the size of a pizza box. The antenna would dynamically steer its connection to one of the satellites passing overhead, much like how a GPS receiver gets its signal from the selection of current;y-overhead satellites. (You cannot directly link your mobile phone to one of the satellites.) But, it does promise much better connectivity for those in rural areas who are currently underserved by terrestrial ISPs who at best offer DSL speeds, if any at all. Ships out in the middle of the ocean would also greatly benefit from this availability.

From SpaceX's live stream page [youtube.com] on YouTube:

SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, May 15 for the launch of 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. SpaceX’s Starlink is a next-generation satellite network capable of connecting the globe, especially reaching those who are not yet connected, with reliable and affordable broadband internet services.

The launch window opens at 10:30 p.m. EDT on May 15, or 2:30 UTC on May 16, and closes at 12:00 a.m. on May 16, or 4:00 UTC. A backup launch window opens on Thursday, May 16 at 10:30 p.m. EDT, or 2:30 UTC on May 17, and closes at 12:00 a.m. on May 17, or 4:00 UTC. Falcon 9’s first stage for this mission previously supported the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018 and the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019. Following stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Approximately one hour and two minutes after liftoff, the Starlink satellites will begin deployment at an altitude of 440km. They will then use onboard propulsion to reach an operational altitude of 550km.

Historically, the stream goes live about 20-30 minutes before the scheduled launch.


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