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.

Falcon 9 Launch Delayed Until Wednesday

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen as it launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4 East with the Jason-3 spacecraft onboard, , Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been delayed until Wednesday, Feb. 21. The launch had been previously scheduled for Feb. 16 and Feb. 18.

The primary payload is the Paz satellite for Hisdesat of Spain. The spacecraft will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Elon Musk’s company will also launch two of its own satellites, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, that will demonstration technologies needed to provide global broadband services. The company plans to orbit 12,000 in two separate constellations for its Starlink broadband service.

Here is the launch schedule for the next two weeks. Check for updates here.

Feb. 21

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:17 a.m. EST; 6:17 a.m. PST (1417 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 24/25

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Optical 6
Launch Window: 11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. EST on Feb. 24 (0400-0600 GMT on Feb. 25)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

The Japanese government’s Information Gathering Satellite carries an optical reconnaissance payload.

Feb. 25

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: 12:35 a.m. EST (0535 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

March 1

Launch Vehicle: Atlas 5
Payload: GOES-S
Launch Time: 5:02-7:02 p.m. EST (2202-0002 GMT)
Launch Site: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The United Launch Alliance rocket will launch the second next-generation geostationary weather satellite for NASA and NOAA.

March 6

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: O3b F4
Launch Time: 11:38:36 a.m. EST (1638:36 GMT)
Launch Site: French Guiana

The four O3b Networks will provide broadband services to developing countries.

FCC Grants OneWeb U.S. Access

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2017 (FCC PR) – The Federal Communications Commission today approved a request by WorldVu Satellites Limited, which does business as OneWeb, to access the United States satellite market. Today’s action paves the way for OneWeb to provide broadband services using satellite technology that holds unique promise to expand Internet access in remote and rural areas across the country.

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