WASHINGTON – SpaceX continues to launch the Starlink broadband constellation with the launch of another 60 satellites on April 7, similar to continued global service.
The Falcon 9 lifted off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 12:34 p.m. Eastern.The upper stage of the rocket delivered the payload of 60 Starlink satellites less than an hour later.
The first stage of the rocket landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic, eight and a half minutes after it was lifted. This is the seventh flight for this booster, which first launched the Demo-2 commercial crew mission in May and most recently launched another set of Starlink satellites on March 11.
This is the tenth Falcon 9 launch of the year for SpaceX, eight of which are dedicated to the Starlink satellite.The company currently has 1,378 satellites in orbit, calculated from the satellites launched and subsequently destroyed, according to Statistics maintained by Jonathan McDowell.
The constellation is now close to the size necessary to provide at least basic service around the world. But we don’t have a perfect connection around the world yet, ”said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer, during a panel discussion on April 6 at the Satellite 2021 LEO Digital Forum.
“We hope that after about 28 launches, we will have continued global coverage,” she added. This launch is the 23rd v1.0 satellite, although only a handful of v0.9 satellites launched nearly two years ago are still in orbit with 10 v1.0 satellites launched to. Polar orbit on a ride in January That shows the company will continue to meet its coverage goals after four to five launches.
These launches will push SpaceX against current FCC licensing, allowing the company to operate as many as 1,584 satellites in orbit at a distance of approximately 550 kilometers, the company’s current license from the Federal Communications Commission allows it. Working with 2,825 additional satellites at an altitude of 1,100 to 1,300 kilometers, SpaceX filed a petition to the FCC to amend the license, moving those additional satellites 550 kilometers.
The FCC has not yet regulated such modifications. But SpaceX’s current launch rate means that the company will reach its current satellite limit of 550 kilometers in a few months, Shotwell said during a panel discussion that the company is “taking our satellites down from their original height” to deal with. Problems on the sustainability of the area. Although she has not addressed the FCC license modifications issue, aside from saying the company will continue to launch satellites. “As we allow”
Shotwell said the company will move forward with the launch of Starlink, even though it continues to meet global coverage criteria. “Later plans are to add satellites to increase capacity,” she said, which includes sending additional satellites to the network. Polar orbit this summer from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. She said these polar satellites would likely combine laser links between satellites the company has experimented with and a few star-link satellites.
The element of Starlink’s overall effort that has caught the most attention is its launch series that created the world’s largest satellite constellation in less than two years. That doesn’t have to be the biggest challenge for SpaceX.
“The satellite and the launch are pretty straightforward to us. We think we’ll have a bit more struggles with satellites, but it turns out that our Dragon, a very complex satellite, has helped us a lot in figuring out the satellite architecture for Starlink, ‘she said.
The challenge, she says, is dealing with more customers and building a reliable network, but “there is nothing we can’t solve.”
Starlink is still in beta testing in the United States and other countries. Shotwell said it has no plans to end beta testing and move to full commercial service in the near future. “We will move out of beta when we have a great product that we are very proud of.”
Another effort is ground equipment used by Starlink members, especially the electronically controlled antennas.Shotwell said the company is working to reduce the cost of such devices, which is needed to gain broad acceptance.
“We have made great strides in reducing the cost of our terminals,” she said. The equipment originally cost about $ 3,000. “We’re less than half of us now.”
Customers currently pay around $ 500 for that device, which means SpaceX continues to heavily support those terminals. That may change as the company continues to cut costs, “We’ll see our terminals in the next few hundred dollars in the next year or two.”
Shotwell appeared on a panel with executives of several other satellite operators, many of whom argued for the hybrid system that uses satellites in low and medium Earth orbit, including orbits. The geostationary or GEO satellites alone offer a better solution. “We see no way that those low-orbital constellations can meet the latent needs of unprotected populations. All current, “said Rodolfi Belmer, Eutelsat’s chief executive.
As Belmer and the other executives in the troupe made reservations about the LEO constellation, Shotwell smiled, “I just smile all the time when people predict technology can and can’t. “I don’t think we have any idea how the technology will evolve in the next five years.”