SpaceX is launching 60 more Starlink satellites today

James Marshall
January 29, 2020

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the fourth batch of 60 Starlink satellites was scheduled for launch Monday from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 9:49 a.m. ET.

SpaceX has a 50% chance of good launch weather today, according to the 45th Weather Squadron of the U.S. Air Force, with thick clouds and "disturbed weather" as the chief concern. A backup window on Tuesday morning has a favorable outlook of 70 percent. So far, SpaceX is winning the race.

SpaceX could launch as many as 42,000 Starlink satellites but the 180 now in orbit are already visible at night. SpaceX is intent on building out an extensive network of these satellites - eventually launching as many as 10,000 or more - with the goal of blanketing the Earth in affordable, reliable and easy to access broadband internet. Its goal is to offer service to customers in the USA and Canada by the end of this year through a series of planned launches of batches of 60 Starlink satellites scheduled through the remainder of 2020. By mid-2020, the company hopes to have more than 700 satellites in space, enough to begin offering commercial satellite broadband service across much of North America.

The space firm test-fired on January 19 the rocket that will carry the satellites, the same day the company also conducted a successful abort test of its Crew Dragon capsule from Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX has regulatory approval to launch more than 12,000 mass-produced Starlink satellites in multiple orbital planes and altitudes, a vast constellation meant to beam uninterrupted commercial broadband signals to customers with small user terminals in under-served areas around the world.

SpaceX previously launched 60 Starlink satellites at a time in May and November and January 6, with two test satellites launched before that. Before that, two test satellites were launched. In addition, there are no additional launches for the dragon capsule to take astronauts to the International Space Station.

The start in early January brought a satellite with a test coating to make it less reflective and less visible to stargazers. However, the results of this experiment have not been released. The satellites each have on-board propulsion systems and are designed for a controlled de-orbit once they reach the end of their useful life, with SpaceX noting that they're also created to leave behind zero debris once they de-orbit and burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

Starlink satellites orbit about 340 miles above the Earth.

The Starlinks will then engage their built-in thrusters and raise their orbits to a height of about 341 miles (550km) - higher than the International Space Station (ISS).

SpaceX tested the satellites by beaming a signal at 600 megabytes per second into an Air Force jet in flight. That compares to 25 megabytes per second recommended by the Federal Communications Commission for streaming ultra-high-definition video.

Each Starlink satellite has small thrusters that use electronic propulsion fueled by krypton gas.

95 percent of all components of this Starlink satellite design will quickly burn in Earth's atmosphere at the end of each satellite's life-cycle which exceeds all current safety standards.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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