- Parabolic Arc
- November 29, 2023
A Progress Report on Deployment of SpaceX Starlink & OneWeb Satellite Broadband Constellations
SpaceX and OneWeb have been busily deploying broadband satellites as they built out networks designed to provide high-speed Internet services around the globe. How far along are they toward completing their constellations? Let’s find out.
SpaceX has launched 3,558 satellites on 68 Falcon 9 flights. Two test satellites named Tintin A and Tintin B were launched first as secondary payloads on Feb. 22, 2018. The first batch of 60 spacecraft was launched on May 24, 2019.
SpaceX Starlink Launches
February 2018 – November 2022
|Falcon 9 (Dedicated)||65||3,543||14|
|Falcon 9 (Transporter-1, 2)||2||13||0|
|Falcon 9 (Secondary)||1||2||0|
There have been 65 dedicated launches with as many as 60 satellites on board. Seven of those launches had 14 payloads from other companies. SpaceX has also launched 13 Starlink spacecraft on a pair of Transporter rideshare missions. Launches have accelerated over the past two years. SpaceX has orbited 2,603 Starlink satellites on 51 launches since the beginning of 2021.
So, how many of the spacecraft are still functioning in orbit? It’s complicated. SpaceX doesn’t publicly provide these figures. Below is an except from Jonathan’s Space Report, the most detailed statistical breakdown of the Starlink program.
Starlink Constellation Status
Nov. 15, 2022
|Still in Orbit||3,273||285 satellites deorbited|
|Still Working||3,237||Total satellites in orbit minus 36 spacecraft thought to have failed.|
|Operational||2,850||Satellites in an operational shell. Spacecraft that are not in an operational orbit may still be providing service.|
SpaceX received two separate approvals from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 4,425 and 7,518 satellites, respectively. The company also filed an application to launch an additional 30,000 spacecraft to bring the total to just under 42,000.
Starlink currently has more than 500,000 subscribers in 40 countries around the world.
Like SpaceX, OneWeb has been deploying its 648-satellite broadband constellation primarily on dedicated launches. Russian Soyuz ST-B and Soyuz-2.1b rockets launched a total of 428 OneWeb satellites from spaceports in Russia, Kazakhstan and French Guiana. The boosters launched the spacecraft in batches of 34 or 36, except for the first rocket that carried six test satellites on Feb. 27, 2019.
|Soyuz-2.1b||Baikonur (5), Vostochny (6)||11||388|
|GSLV Mk III||Satish Dhawan||1||36|
Six more Soyuz flights had been planned for this year. However, the flights were canceled after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. OneWeb subsequently booked launches with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and SpaceX to complete constellation deployment.
ISRO’s GSLV Mk III rocket launched the first 36 satellites on Oct. 22, increasing the total of 464. The second launch is scheduled for January. SpaceX’s first launch of OneWeb spacecraft is likely to occur before the end of the year.
In 2015, OneWeb entered into a contract with Virgin Orbit for 39 flights of the LauncherOne small-satellite booster that would allow the company to replenish its constellation. Launchers were to have begun in 2017. The agreement included an option for 100 additional launches. However, OneWeb later cut the order to four launches, prompting a lawsuit from Virgin Orbit.
The loss of Soyuz launches was just one of multiple obstacles the company has faced. In 2020, OneWeb was forced to suspend launches when it went bankrupt. The UK government and Indian billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal provided $1 billion to bail out the company later the same year.
OneWeb is in the midst of a merger with Eutelsat that would value the satellite broadband provider at $3.4 billion. The deal is now undergoing regulatory review.