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.

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.

SpaceX Embarks on Another Funding Round to Raise $400 Million

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX is seeking to raise $400 million in its latest round of fundraising. According to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, SpaceX has raised 11 percent of the total:

Total Amount Offered: $399,999,936
Total Amount Sold: $43,999,332
Total Remaining to be Sold: $356,000,604

Five investors have participated in the funding round thus far.

Elon Musk’s company is preparing to launch its Starlink constellation of satellites, which could eventually include nearly 12,000 spacecraft that would provide high-speed Internet and other communications services. The launch of the first satellites is scheduled for no earlier than May.

SpaceX has also begun testing its Raptor engine, which will power its Starship vehicle and super heavy booster.

Amazon Constellation Sends Number of Planned Communications Satellites Soaring Above 20,000

F6 satellite (Credit: OneWeb)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has jumped into a crowded field of companies seeking to provide high-speed broadband, data and other communications services to the entire globe.

Amazon’s Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites brings the total number of spacecraft in the 16 announced systems to 20,241 spacecraft. The competition includes SpaceX, Boeing, Telesat, SES and government-backed companies in China and Russia.

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SpaceX Receives $28.7 Million USAF Contract for Starlink Constellation

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded Elon Musk’s SpaceX a contract worth $28.7 million for research work on the company’s Starlink satellite constellation.

“This agreement allows for experimentation in the areas of establishing connectivity, operational experimentation, and special purpose experimentation. Experimentation will include connectivity demonstrations to Air Force ground sites and aircraft for experimental purposes,” the contract award states.

“For the proposed Phase 2, the awardee proposes to perform experiments in two other key areas: early versions of a commercial space-to-space data relay service and mobile connectivity directly from space to aircraft,” the award added.

Starlink is designed to provide global communications services using an initial constellation of more than 4,000 satellites. When fully built out, the system will include nearly 12,000 spacecraft.

Report: SpaceX Set to Raise $500 Million for Starlink Constellation

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

The Wall Street Journal reports that SpaceX is set to raise $500 million at a $30.5 billion valuation to kickstart its Starlink satellite Internet program.

The Hawthorne, Calif., company, known as SpaceX, is raising the capital from existing shareholders and new investor Baillie Gifford & Co., one of the people said. The Scottish money-management firm is one of the largest investors in another Musk-led company, Tesla Inc., with about a 7.6% stake in the electric-car maker, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

SpaceX and the investors have agreed on the financing terms, but the money hasn’t been sent to the company yet, this person said. SpaceX could announce the deal by year-end.

Including the current round, SpaceX has raised about $2.5 billion of equity funding, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. Last month it raised $250 million via its first high-yield loan sale….

SpaceX ultimately could require more than $10 billion in capital to reach its projected 11,000 satellite constellation, according to some industry estimates, while developing its heavy-lift rocket and capsule is anticipated to cost many more billions of dollars.

Starlink 12K: Elon Musk’s Big Gamble on Global Satellite Internet

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to provide high-speed communications to virtually any location on Earth got a big boost this week when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the company’s plan to add 7,518 satellites to the company’s Starlink constellation.

The action brings the total number of satellites in Starlink to 11,943 following the FCC’s earlier approval of 4,425 spacecraft last year.

Starlink is Musk’s ambitious entry into the global satellite Internet race. He is gambling big that there is a sufficient market worldwide to make the constellation profitable.

SpaceX launched two test Starlink test satellites into orbit earlier this year. Published reports say Musk wants to launch the first batch of satellites in the middle of next year, with service to begin in 2020.

Starlink is facing competition from OneWeb, which is planning to launch a constellation of 882 satellites to provide similar service. OneWeb plans to begin launching spacecraft next year.

The FCC also approved satellite broadband constellations by three other satellite companies last week. Telesat Canada received approval for an 117-satellite constellation while LeoSat plans to launch 78 spacecraft.

Kepler Communication’s 140-satellite constellation is focused on providing communications for the Internet of Things.

“These proposed satellite systems are expected to enable fixed satellite service in the United States, expanding global connectivity and advancing the goals of increasing high-speed broadband availability and competition in the marketplace,” the FCC said in a press release.

The constellations will greatly increase the number of satellites in Earth orbit. There are currently about 4,900 spacecraft in orbit out of the approximately 8,100 launched since the Space Age began in October 1957. Nearly 2,000 spacecraft are currently operational.

FCC Approves Satellite Constellations for SpaceX, Kepler, Telesat Canada & LeoSat

  • SpaceX constellation includes 7,518 satellite Internet spacecraft
  • Three other approved constellations total 335 satellites

WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018 (FCC PR) —  The Federal Communications Commission today approved the requests of four companies—Space Exploration Holdings, LLC (SpaceX), Kepler Communications, Inc. (Kepler), Telesat Canada (Telesat), and LeoSat MA, Inc. (LeoSat)—seeking to roll-out new and expanded services using proposed non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) satellites.

These proposed satellite systems are expected to enable fixed satellite service in the United States, expanding global connectivity and advancing the goals of increasing high-speed broadband availability and competition in the marketplace.

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Report: Musk Replaces Senior Management of Starlink Program

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Reuters reports that Elon Musk fired at least seven senior members of the management team of SpaceX’s Starlink program back in June over disagreements about the pace of developing the satellite Internet constellation.

Known for pushing aggressive deadlines, Musk quickly brought in new managers from SpaceX headquarters in California to replace a number of the managers he fired. Their mandate: Launch SpaceX’s first batch of U.S.-made satellites by the middle of next year, the sources said….

Among the managers fired from the Redmond office was SpaceX Vice President of Satellites Rajeev Badyal, an engineering and hardware veteran of Microsoft Corp and Hewlett-Packard, and top designer Mark Krebs, who worked in Google’s satellite and aircraft division, the employees said. Krebs declined to comment, and Badyal did not respond to requests for comment.

The management shakeup followed in-fighting over pressure from Musk to speed up satellite testing schedules, one of the sources said. SpaceX’s Behrend offered no comment on the matter.

Culture was also a challenge for recent hires, a second source said. A number of the managers had been hired from nearby technology giant Microsoft, where workers were more accustomed to longer development schedules than Musk’s famously short deadlines.

“Rajeev wanted three more iterations of test satellites,” one of the sources said. “Elon thinks we can do the job with cheaper and simpler satellites, sooner.”

Starlink aims to launch 4,425 satellites to provide Internet and other communications services to any place on the globe. A future constellation would bring the total number of satellites to about 12,000.

In February, Starlink launched two test satellites named Tintin A and Tintin B. The program faces competition from OneWeb and other companies that are aiming for the same market.

SpaceX to Launch Majority of 4,000 Starlink Satellites From Cape Canaveral

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s proposed expansion at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also revealed that Elon Musk’s rocket company plans to most of more than 4,000 satellites of its planned Starlink constellation from Cape Canaveral.

That will guarantee a busy schedule for SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at KSC and LC-40 at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). LC-39A can accommodate Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while LC-40 is configured for the Falcon 9.

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First Quarter Commercial Space Investment Reached Nearly $1 Billion

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX received $500 million of the nearly $1 billion in investment raised by commercial space companies during the first quarter of 2018, according to the Space Investment Quarterly report from Space Angels.

“SpaceX shows no signs of slowing down—after the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy, the company secured $500 million from Fidelity Investments to drive development of their satellite communications network, Starlink,” the report added.

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FCC Approves SpaceX’s Application for 4,425-Satellite Broadband Constellation

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2018 (FCC PR) – The Federal Communications Commission approved an application by Space Exploration Holdings, doing business as SpaceX, to provide broadband services using satellite technology in the United States and around the world. With this action, the Commission takes another step to increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States.

This is the first approval of a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies. SpaceX proposed a satellite system comprised of 4,425 satellites and was granted authority to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) bands to provide global Internet connectivity.

The Memorandum Opinion, Order and Authorization today outlines the conditions under which SpaceX is authorized to provide service using its proposed NGSO FSS satellite constellation. Specifically, the Order specifies the conditions to ensure compliance with Commission rules, and to protect other operations in the requested frequency bands.

Over the past year, the FCC has approved requests by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat to access the United States market to provide broadband services using satellite technology that holds promise to expand Internet access, particularly in remote and rural areas across the country. These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests.

Watch First Two SpaceX Starlink Satellites Deployed

These test satellites were secondary payloads on the Falcon 9 launch of the Paz satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this morning. Elon Musk’s company plans to provide global broadband services through two satellite constellations composed of 12,000 satellites.