A fourth batch of Starlink satellites was expected to head to space this morning, but strong upper-level winds forced SpaceX to cancel. A back-up launch date is set for tomorrow at 9:28 am ET.
If tomorrow’s launch is a go, SpaceX will have its third batch of 60 operational Starlink satellites in space. It’ll be the fourth set to go up, but the first 60 were described as “experimental” by SpaceX.
And as always, a SpaceX launch is more than its cargo. The first stage of the Falcon 9 will attempt a third return trip back to Earth. This first stage has flown twice before, during the first Crew Dragon test mission back in March 2019, and the RADARSAT Constellation mission in June 2019.
Shortly after tomorrow’s launch, the first stage will attempt a landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship parked off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean. Forty-five minutes after liftoff, two SpaceX boats will try to catch both fairing halves.
The Falcon 9’s second stage will get the Starlink satellites to an altitude of 290 kilometers. There, SpaceX engineers will go over data to make sure all systems are green for each satellite. Once these reviews are complete, onboard ion thrusters will get the satellites the rest of the way to their target orbit altitude of 550 kilometers.
As SpaceX closes in on 200 operational Starlink satellites, when can we start using “the world’s most advanced broadband internet system?” SpaceX is still targeting this year (2020) for service launch in the Northern U.S. and Canada, according to a press kit for this week’s launch. A global launch will follow in 2021.
It’ll be interesting to see more details on Starlink. How fast is the internet? More importantly, how much? Where I live, Comcast is the only decent option for internet, so I’m always down to see more competition.
We do know the Starlink constellation works after an AC-130 gunship passed data during a recent exercise.
SpaceX will host a webcast of tomorrow’s launch here. It’ll go live 15 minutes before launch.
I’ll leave you with an absolutely incredible video from Cosmic Perspective as they filmed SpaceX’s Crew Dragon launch escape demo recently.