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SpaceX to launch 60 satellite Internet and deploy them like a deck of cards



  Falcon 9 rocket, at launchpad, with its Starlink cargo hidden in payload fairing.
Enlarge / Falcon 9 rocket, at launchpad, with its Starlink cargo If time connects and Falcon 9 rocket, the first batch of SpaceX satellite Internet will be launched from Florida on Wednesday night. At a mass of 18.5 tonnes, this is the company's biggest launch date to either Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy Rocket.

Wednesday's rocket will boost 60 Starlink satellites, each weighing 227kg, to an altitude of 440km. This is the first block of Starlink satellite for what should be a larger constellation, and they will help its SpaceX gauge its performance and perform tests of some major systems. In the coming months, the first satellites will be accepted by six additional launches that carry the same size of payloads. Launches will bring the constellation to an initial "operational" capability.

There is no guarantee that everything is great, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in a teleconference with reporters on Wednesday night. "It's very hard," Musk says. "There are many new technologies, so it's possible that some of the satellites may not work. There is a small possibility that all satellites will not work."

Launch and release

The launch window opens at 1

0:30 pm Wednesday (02:30 UTC Thursday) and closes 90 minutes later. A back-up launch window will open at the same time Thursday. Weather conditions are currently estimated to be 80 percent favorable for launch.

The early launch will be familiar to the people who watched the launch of SpaceX before. The Falcon 9 first stage flew twice before, and it will try to register at My Love of droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. Actual action will take about 1 hour 2 minutes after launch, when the second stage starts to expand Starlink satellite.

In order to save the masses, each of the 60 satellites has no self-release mechanism, like a spring. Instead, Musk explained, the higher stage of the Falcon rocket will start a slow rotation, and each of the satellites will be poured into a different amount of rotational inertia.

"It almost seems like spreading a deck of cards on a table," Musk says. There may actually be some contacts between Starlink satellites, he added, but they were designed to handle it.

Powering up

After expansion, satellites begin to power their ionic drives and open their solar panels. They move to an altitude of 550km under their own power. Musk said he was concerned about the deployment of a solar panel, and he said there were two different deployment mechanisms for satellites for this purpose. He also said that satellites incorporate new technologies into thrusters as well as phased array antennas that have not been fully tested in space.

Satellites are designed to control costs. For example, each would move the thrusters of the Hall-effect-thrusters of the ion which accelerated the propellant of an electric field. Conventional fuel for such a thruster is xenon, which offers high performance. Starlink satellites, however, use different noble gas: krypton. It has a lower density, so satellite fuel tanks need to be larger, and it has less performance than xenon. But krypton can be bought at one-tenth of the cost of xenon, which is important if a company wants to fuel thousands of satellites.

"It costs a weck a lot less than xenon," said Musk of krypton. (He also joked, in response to a question from Ars about this fuel, that the satellites are immune to the invasion from Superman's native world).

During the call, Musk said each Starlink satellite cost more to deliver to orbit than it costs labor. The price list for the launch of Falcon 9 is $ 62 million. Focusing on a discount on reuse and wholesale prices, this means that the cost of Starlink satellites is less than $ 1 million each to generate.

Business plan

SpaceX competes with nearly a dozen other companies to build low latency, high-bandwidth Internet from space. A competitor, OneWeb, launched its own six satellite in February. But SpaceX looks good on most of the rest of the field.

With six other launches and a total of 400 satellites, the Musk states that the constellation has reached the point of being able to offer some initial ground-based connectivity- based on users. A dozen launches will bring a "meaningful" connection, he said, and 24 launches will bring service near-the world.

After some recent rounds of fund spending, SpaceX has enough capital to launch the first 400 satellites and start selling telecom services companies and governments willing to serve in low and medium density. If there are significant problems with the rollout or performance of the first 400 satellites, he says SpaceX is likely to return to the capital markets.

Over time, Musk expects Starlink to be a commercial success for SpaceX and its goal of building a self-sustaining city on Mars. Potential revenue launches have risen to about $ 3 billion a year for the company, he said, but getting only 3 percent of the global Internet market could bring about $ 30 billion. "We've seen this as a way for SpaceX to generate revenue that can be used to build more and more advanced rocket," he said.

Musk recognized the validity concerns of orbital lips from many satellites (SpaceX has a license to launch more than 11,000 Starlink satellites, more than the total number currently in orbit of about 2,000 ). But he also said that the 500km chosen altitude and design of the satellites will help ensure that the constellation is cleaned up by interacting with Earth's atmosphere.

The webcast launch, embedded below, should start about 15 minutes before launch. ] Starlink mission launch.


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