Starlink Launch Rescheduled for Thursday as Elon Musk Describes Global Broadband System

60 Starlink satellites inside the Falcon 9 payload fairing. (Credit: Elon Musk)

Update: SpaceX scrubbed for Thursday to update satellite software and make additional checks. Next launch attempt will be in about one week.

SpaceX was forced to cancel a Falcon 9 launch with 60 Starlink satellites on board on Wednesday night due to high upper-level winds. Tonight’s launch window opens 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. The launch webcast will go live about 15 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com/webcast. The ground weather forecast is 90 percent go for launch.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave a media teleconference during which he describes elements of the Starlink satellite constellation, which is designed to provide high-speed broadband and other communications on a global basis. Here are the highlights:

  • although the constellation could eventually number nearly 12,000 satellites, it would be economically viable with about 1,000 spacecraft;
  • Musk said “it looks like we have sufficient capital to get to an operational level”;
  • Starlink would be able to provide coverage to limited areas of the globe with 400 satellites, which would require a total of seven launches;
  • the constellation would be able to provide coverage for the United States with 12 launches, most of the world’s population with 24, and the entire planet with 30 launches;
  • the 60 satellites being launched are equipped with phased array antennas and ion propulsion units that use krypton instead of more expensive xenon gas;
  • the spacecraft do not have inter-satellite communications links, which will be added to future iterations of the spacecraft;
  • Starlink satellites should last four to five years in orbit before they burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere;
  • spacecraft will be able to detect and avoid orbital debris;
  • ground terminals are about the size of a small or medium pizza and use phased array, electronically steered antennas that can switch between satellites in under a thousandth of a second with a latency of under 20 milliseconds;
  • SpaceX has not signed up any customers yet, but is targeting telecommunications companies, governments, maritime industries, aviation and under served areas of the globe;
  • Musk sees Starlink as providing a revenue stream to fund SpaceX’s Starship launch system and his dream of establishing settlements on Mars;
  • annual revenues could approach more than $30 billion per year, 10 times the approximately $3 billion that the launch side of SpaceX’s business brings in; and,
  • 60 satellites weigh about 18.5 tons, which is the heaviest payload ever launched by Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy.

SpaceX Falcon 9 to Launch 60 Starlink Satellites Tonight

60 Starlink satellites inside the Falcon 9 payload fairing. (Credit: Elon Musk)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — 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. The Launch webcast will go live about 15 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com/webcast.

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SpaceX to Launch 60 Starlink Satellites on Wednesday.

60 Starlink satellites inside the Falcon 9 payload fairing. (Credit: Elon Musk)

Elon Musk tweeted this photo of 60 Starlink satellites inside the fairing of a Falcon 9 rocket scheduled to launch on Wednesday from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The satellites are part of a constellation of nearly 12,000 spacecraft designed to provide fast global broadband services.

Dragon Carries Experiments to ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (CASIS PR) — Early Saturday morning at 2:48 a.m. EDT, a variety of payloads managed by the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory were successfully launched to the space station on SpaceX’s 17th commercial resupply services mission from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Many of the ISS National Lab investigations included on this mission are aimed at improving human health on Earth, with several focused on drug development.

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Stop Aging in Space

Nanoceria (Credit: Gianni Ciofani)

PARIS, 4 May 2019 — Wrinkles, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a clumsy brain are all natural consequences of getting old. As our cells rust over time, a key to fighting chronic disease may be in tiny, smartly designed particles that have the potential to become an anti-ageing supplement. A European experiment seeking innovative antioxidants is on its way to space.

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Rocket Lab Plans First Night Launch on Saturday, SpaceX Scrubs Dragon Flight

 

Electron lifts off with DARPA’s R3D2 satellite. (Credits: Kieran Fanning, Sam Tom)

Rocket Lab has completed the launch readiness review for Electron’s first night launch on Saturday.  The launch window for the flight, which will carry three technology demonstration satellites for the U.S. Department of Defense, opens at 2:00 a.m. EDT (0600 UTC/ 18:00 NZT).

SpaceX scrubbed the launch of a Dragon supply ship to the International Space Station on Friday due to an electrical issue on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship. There was also a helium leak involving the Falcon 9 booster.

The next launch opportunity is Saturday at 2:48 a.m. EDT (0648 UTC).

Techshot Research Equipment Launching Aboard SpaceX Mission CRS-17

Specially Developed Experiment Modules Contain MIT Tissue Chips

GREENVILLE, Ind. (April 26, 2019) – An uncrewed SpaceX cargo resupply spacecraft scheduled to launch to the International Space Station May 1 will contain experiment modules specially-developed by Techshot Inc., for a Massachusetts Institute of Technology tissue chip experiment. Tissue chip devices are designed as accurate models of the structure and function of human tissues such as the lungs, liver, heart and bone.

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SpaceX Receives FCC Approval to Launch 1,500 Starlink Satellites

Gwynne Shotwell

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved SpaceX’s request to fly more than 1,500 of its Starlink satellites at an altitude of 550 kilometers. Additional information on the approval can be found here, and the following statement can be attributed to Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX:

“This approval underscores the FCC’s confidence in SpaceX’s plans to deploy its next-generation satellite constellation and connect people around the world with reliable and affordable broadband service. Starlink production is well underway, and the first group of satellites have already arrived at the launch site for processing.”

SpaceX is targeting no earlier than May for launch of a Starlink mission.

Last year, SpaceX became the first U.S.-based company to be licensed by the FCC to operate a NGSO constellation of more than 11,000 satellites.

Earlier this year, SpaceX submitted an application to operate 1 million user terminals as well as its first six gateways to provide the necessary communications links back from the satellites to the global Internet. SpaceX intends to install sufficient gateway sites in the U.S. and around the world to ensure that the Starlink satellites have a visible gateway earth station with which they can communicate from all parts of their orbits.

NASA to Broadcast Next Space Station Resupply Launch, Prelaunch Activities

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA commercial cargo provider SpaceX is targeting no earlier than 4:21 a.m. EDT Tuesday, April 30, for the launch of its next resupply mission to the International Space Station. Live coverage will begin on NASA Television and the agency’s  website Monday, April 29, with prelaunch events.

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Multiple Regenerative Medicine Payloads Ready for Flight to ISS U.S. National Laboratory

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., April 22, 2019 (CASIS PR)  – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory is finalizing more than a dozen payloads for launch to the orbiting laboratory aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. Many of these payloads are aimed at improving human health on Earth, with several focused on drug development and screening. Research concepts include commercial companies leveraging microgravity to improve drug delivery systems, other government agencies funding transformative science, and academic inquiry to enhance fundamental knowledge of diseases on Earth.

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SpaceX Wins NASA Launch Contract for Asteroid Redirect Test Mission

DART mission profile (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the first-ever mission to demonstrate the capability to deflect an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft with it at high speed – a technique known as a kinetic impactor.

The total cost for NASA to launch DART is approximately $69 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Launches Communications Satellite, Hits Landing Trifecta

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launched its first commercial satellite on Thursday, with its three first stage boosters successfully landing for later reuse.

The world’s most powerful booster lifted off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:35 p.m. EDT. The rocket successfully orbited the Arabsat 6A communications satellite.

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SpaceX Drops Protest Over Contract for Lucy Mission

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

SpaceNews reports that SpaceX has dropped it protest of NASA’s decision to award a launch contract to United Launch Alliance (ULA) for its Lucy asteroid mission.

SpaceX did not disclose the reason it withdrew the protest, and a company spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by SpaceNews about the withdrawal. According to GAO’s website, SpaceX filed a separate protest over the same contract March 25, which was also withdrawn April 4. The company also declined to comment on the difference between the two protests.

When it filed the protest in February, SpaceX argued it could perform the same mission for a “dramatically lower” price than the $148.3 million value of the ULA contract. “We believe the decision to pay vastly more to Boeing and Lockheed for the same mission was therefore not in the best interest of the agency or the American taxpayers,” a company spokesperson said then. ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

ULA said that it was selected in part because it offered schedule assurance for the mission. Lucy must launch during a 20-day window in October 2021 in order to carry out its complex trajectory of flybys of six Trojan asteroids and one in the main asteroid belt. Should the launch miss that window, the mission cannot be flown as currently planned.

Video: Jim Bridenstine Talks With SpaceX Founder Elon Musk

Video Caption: On the latest Watch this Space, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine chats with SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk during a tour of Launch Complex 39A just before the Demo-1 launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The historic Demo-1 mission launched at 2:49 a.m. EDT on Saturday, March 2 and was the first launch of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft and space system designed for humans as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Learn more about the Commercial Crew program: https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/.