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SpaceX adds another 60 Starlinks; increasing launches

April 9, 2021

By Chris Forrester

SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink broadband-by-satellite craft from Florida on April 7th.

It was the 24th batch of Starlinks to be placed into orbit and the 10th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket this year. However, news emerged that SpaceX will make fresh use of its California launch site for some Starlink satellites.

The latest launch placed the Starlinks into a low-ish orbit some 270 kms high. The individual satellites then use their own on-board krypton-fuelled thrusters to raise themselves to an operational orbit of 550 kms.

The Elon Musk-backed venture now has well over 1300 satellites in orbit. In total some 1445 satellites have been launched but this includes initial test craft and some have failed for one reason or another. Observers believe that the active Starlink fleet comprises about 1380 craft with this latest batch in place.

The Falcon 9’s first stage was on its 7th flight, itself a record. Soke eight minutes after launch, the Falcon 9 booster came back down landing on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX’s California launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base as early as July. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, said that it would be placing Starlinks into polar orbits this summer, for which Vandenberg is a perfect launch site.

The FCC has authorised SpaceX to launch up to 12,000 Starlink satellites using Ku, Ka and V-band frequencies into various heights above ground.

But the polar orbiting craft will carry on-board laser connectivity inter-satellite links.

“We don’t currently have laser links on the (Version) 1.0 satellites, although the polar satellites, we hope to have a good laser system operating for those,” Shotwell said.

She added that craft testing in orbit is still taking place.

“We still have a lot of work to do to make the network reliable,” Shotwell said. “We still have drops, not necessarily just because of where the satellites are in the sky. So we’ll move off of beta when we have a really great product that we are very proud of.”

“The plan is to operate a network that is very reliable, low latency, and accessible to everybody, literally, on the planet,” she continued. “And we’ll add satellites to add capacity. Once we have the network, the mesh network, then basically every new launch just adds capacity, so we’ll be able to monitor how things are going and how is our service, and if it’s good and people like it, then we’ll continue to add satellites as we’re allowed.”

Meanwhile, marketing of the Starlink service will begin in June for Portugal.

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