Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX to launch Starlink satellites as early as next week

At a conference in Washington D.C., a SpaceX executive said the first dedicated launch of Starlink satellites is scheduled to fly as early as May 15.

According to SpaceNews, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said during the Satellite 2019 conference the May 15 Falcon 9 launch would orbit dozens of Starlink internet satellites, but did not specify how many. Additionally, she said this would be the first of anywhere between two and six Starlink-dedicated missions this year.

However, Shotwell said the first batch of spacecraft is to be a demonstration set and exactly when the next set launches depends on how the first satellites operate.

A number of things likely still need to occur before SpaceX sets a firm date and time, including a static fire test on the Falcon 9 that will be utilized for the mission. Liftoff is expected to take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. Should the May 15 date hold, the specific time of the flight could be during a 90-minute window opening at 10:30 p.m. EDT (02:30 GMT May 16), according to NASASpaceflight’s Michael Baylor in a tweet

Starlink was started in 2015 and the project is being developed at a facility in Seattle, Washington. The goal is to provide a low-cost, high-performance internet constellation.

The first two test satellites, dubbed Tintin A and B, were launched in February 2018. Several months after that, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the satellites, which had a low latency of 25 milliseconds, had a connection good enough to play fast-response video games.

When complete, the full Starlink satellite internet constellation is expected to have around 12,000 satellites, launched over the next decade, at a cost of about $10 billion.

Recently, SpaceX was granted Federal Communications Commission approval to launch its first group—nearly 1,600 spacecraft—into a lower orbit than initially planned. According to the FCC, the first satellites are expected to orbit at 340 miles (550 kilometers), rather than the initially planned 715 miles (1,150 kilometers).

In addition to the 1,600 at 340 miles (550 kilometers), another 2,800 is planned to be placed in orbits 710 miles (1,150 kilometers) in altitude while 7,500 are planned to be placed at 210 miles (340 kilometers). According to an FCC document, SpaceX is planning to have half the constellation in orbit by 2024, with it being completed by 2028.

The first two prototype Starlink satellites were launched by SpaceX in February 2018. Photo Credit: SpaceX

The first two prototype Starlink satellites were launched by SpaceX in February 2018. Photo Credit: SpaceX



Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.

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