60 Starlink Satellites housed in the fairing for launch. credit: Elon Musk/SpaceX
What’s all this mean?
SpaceX will be launching 60 of their Starlink satellites on top of their work-horse Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida. The booster supporting this mission (B1049.4) flew on Telstar 18 Vintage on September 10th, 2018, Iridium-NEXT 8 on January 11th, 2019, and Starlink .9 on May 24th, 2019. This booster is going to be recovered on SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Droneship (ASDS), Of Course I Still Love You. The ASDS will be located over 629km downrange. SpaceX will attempt to recover one of the fairing halves with Go MS Tree. They will fetch the other half out of the water.
Starlink is a satellite constellation operated and manufactured by SpaceX. This constellation aims to provide internet access to secluded areas around the world by forming an initial net of 12,000 satellites in three different orbits. About 1,600 will be in a 550 km orbit, 2,800 Ku and Ka band satellites in a 1,150 km orbit and about 7,500 V-band satellites will orbit the earth at an altitude of 340 km. SpaceX may increase the number of their satellites by another 30,000 (cough 42-thousand cough) at some later point. Starlink satellites are equipped with an ion thruster using krypton gas for orbit adjustments and deorbit, a star tracker navigation system, multiple high-throughput antennas, and a single solar panel. They are designed to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere at the end of their lifecycle. Current plans suggest the start of initial service in the US by early-2020.