Update: On 23rd May, SpaceX successfully launched 60 satellites of the company’s Starlink constellation to orbit after a launch from Cape Canaveral.
“This is one of the hardest engineering projects I’ve ever seen done, and it’s been executed really well,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, during a press briefing last week. “There is a lot of new technology here, and it’s possible that some of these satellites may not work, and in fact a small possibility that all the satellites will not work.
“We don’t want to count anything until it’s hatched, but these are, I think, a great design and we’ve done everything we can to maximize the probability of success,” he said.
On Wednesday night, SpaceX was all set to send a Falcon 9 rocket into the space carrying the very first 60 satellites for its new Starlink commercial satellite internet service. And, while everyone was eagerly waiting for the launch webcast, the heavy winds ruined the show for everyone.
SpaceX rescheduled the launch at 10:30 pm EDT from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but it has canceled the launch yet again citing the reason as software issues. The launch is now delayed for about a week.
Standing down to update satellite software and triple-check everything again. Always want to do everything we can on the ground to maximize mission success, next launch opportunity in about a week.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 17, 2019
Elon Musk’s plans for SpaceX
This launch of 60 satellites, weighing 227 kgs each, is actually the first step into creating Elon Musk’s plan of a huge Starlink constellation. He eventually aims to build up a mega constellation of 12,000 satellites. If everything goes well today, Falcon 9 will make a landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone-ship in the Atlantic Ocean. After 1 hour and 20 minutes of the launch, the second stage will begin when the Starlink satellites will start self-deploying.
On Wednesday, Musk on a teleconference with reporters revealed a bunch of details about his satellite internet service. Revealing the release mechanism behind the satellites he said that each of the satellites does not have their own release mechanism. Instead, the Falcon rocket’s upper stage will begin a very slow rotation and each one will be released in turn with a different amount of rotational inertia. “It will almost seem like spreading a deck of cards on a table,” he adds. Once the deployment happens, the satellites will start powering up their ion drives and open their solar panels. They will then move to an altitude of 550 km under their own power.
This is a new approach for delivering commercial satellite internet. Other satellite internet services such as Viasat depend on few big satellites in geostationary orbit over 22,000 miles (35,000 kilometers) above Earth as opposed to 550 km in this case.
Conventional internet services can suffer from high levels of latency because the signals have to travel a huge distance between the satellite and earth. Starlink aims to bring the satellites to the lower orbit to minimize the distance hence resulting in less lag time. However, the catch here is that as these satellites are closer to the Earth they are not able to cover a large surface area and hence a much greater number of them will be required to cover the whole planet.
Though his plans look promising, Musk does not claim of everything going well. He, in the teleconference, said, “This is very hard. There is a lot of new technology, so it’s possible that some of these satellites may not work. There’s a small possibility that all of these satellites will not work.” He further added that six more launches of a similar payload will be required before the service even begins to offer a “minor” coverage.
You willl be able to see the launch webcast hauere or also on lthe official website: