SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is not carrying just one satellite, but 60 identical ones, this time. (photo: Twitter/SpaceX)
For the second time in two nights, Elon Musk’s SpaceX said it would postpone the launch of dozens of satellites. Wednesday’s attempt to launch Starlink, the company’s bid to get into the space-based internet business, was postponed because of strong winds high in Earth’s atmosphere. SpaceX said on Twitter that Thursday's delay was related to checking the systems it planned to launch. The company could try again next week.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is not carrying just one satellite, but 60 identical ones, this time.
Standing down to update satellite software and triple-check everything again. Always want to do everything we can on the ground to maximize mission success, next launch opportunity in about a week.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 17, 2019
The Starlink mission is next in line on SpaceX’s launch manifest at the Florida spaceport after the liftoff of a Dragon supply ship for the International Space Station, a launch currently scheduled for no earlier than Friday. The Starlink satellites will eventually form a constellation of satellites that are to offer internet to almost anywhere on Earth.
Last year, SpaceX launched two prototype satellites, called Tintin A and Tintin B. Musk said, “the payload on this launch, at more than 30,000 pounds, is the heaviest ever launched by SpaceX.” He added that these satellites would be able to relay information by bouncing the data off a ground station. However, they lack a component planned for future versions: lasers that would allow the satellites to relay information to each other.
In 2018, SpaceX had received FCC approval to launch 4,425 low-earth-orbit satellites at several altitudes from 1,110 km to 1,325 km. However, the FCC approval was contingent on SpaceX filing a more detailed debris-mitigation plan.
Satellites orbiting at 1,150 km will take "hundreds of years to enter the Earth's atmosphere," but a SpaceX satellite "will take less than five years (even under worst-case assumptions) if it starts at an altitude of 550 kilmoters," the company said.
The lower altitude will bring an advantage to broadband users, SpaceX explained. "By operating closer to the Earth, SpaceX would also reduce the latency of its communications signals to as low as 15 milliseconds, at which point it would be virtually unnoticeable to almost all users," the company said. (SpaceX has said latency from an altitude of 1,150 kilmoters would be 25 milliseconds to 35 milliseconds.)