SpaceX to launch 60 Starlink satellites tomorrow
Elon Musk tweets photo of a fully-loaded Falcon 9 fairing
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SpaceX CEO & CTO Elon Musk posted a picture on Twitter last Saturday showing the first set of Starlink satellites loaded into the Falcon rocket’s fairing. “Tight fit,” he remarked. The Starlink project is aimed at developing and deploying a low-cost, high-performance broadband service by placing an array of internet-beaming satellites in low earth orbit. This first set of 60 satellites is scheduled to make its way up to space sometime tomorrow.
In a series of replies to his original photo tweet, Musk explained that these were “production design” satellites and not part of the test series of satellites (which were nicknamed Tintin A and B). This being the first mission of its kind, he remarked, “Much will likely go wrong on 1st mission”. According to Musk, six more launches of the same kind (with a total of 360 satellites) will be required for “minor coverage”, and twelve more for “moderate”.
Back in November last year, SpaceX was cleared to send up 4,425 satellites for the Starlink project. In February, SpaceX sent up the two test satellites, Tintin A and B, to test the waters. After the mission, SpaceX realised that the setup would work better if some of those satellites were placed in a lower orbit than planned. SpaceX received the green signal for that too earlier this month. The added advantage is that these satellites in lower earth orbit will burn up on re-entry if they stop working and not add to space debris.
If everything goes well, the first set of 60 satellites will be put in space tomorrow using a Falcon 9 rocket, which is expected to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was recently fired to send about 2,500 kilogrammes of cargo and scientific equipment to the team aboard the International Space Station. The shipment included NASA’s new organs-on-chips experiment.
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