The seventeenth flight launch of SpaceX’s 60 Starlink satellites finally happened on 20th January 2021. It was already delayed twice due to weather conditions and inspections of the rocket but now finally took place. This launch holds immense importance for the company as it is the first of 2021. And it also sets the reusability record for the company as it is the 8th time the Falcon 9 rocket was used for a launch. The rocket might be used at least two more times, setting new records in the future.
SpaceX’s new record of rapid reuse
SpaceX is now the leading company in space ventures. It’s innovation and works in the department have helped in progressing a lot in space and at the same time preserve Earth’s resources too. The company has already used and successfully landed the Falcon 9 rocket 7 times, and with this 8th launch, it is the most any rocket has ever been used. It helps the company save their money, time, and resources and do more frequent launches.
Falcon 9 was last used to launch the Sirius NM-7 orbit on 13th December. That time and even before that, the time taken by the rocket to turn around and come back to Earth was substantial. But, now, SpaceX has managed to reduce that drastically, bringing it down from 51 days to 38 days. So, this launch for the company is essential in that regards too. If the falcon 9 comes back faster to Earth, then SpaceX could probably do more launches in the future.
60 Starlink satellites launch
The satellite launch using a Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled for 18th January, 8:45 AM EST. But due to poor weather conditions and retesting, it was postponed first to Monday and then Wednesday. The launch of the satellites has now made the constellation of Starlink satellites in space well over 1000. The satellites’ beta testing has already begun, and the company says that they need to launch another 500-800 satellites to rollout good service.
The launch of the satellites took place at 8:02 AM EST on Wednesday. SpaceX’s hope on the rocket was vital as it has already been used 7 times. It even delivered a radio satellite to space using the rocket in December 2020. Apart from the new usability record and the first launch of 2021, the recent launch was remarkable in other ways too. According to the reports, the landing of the Falcon 9 happened in harsh climatic conditions. The wind conditions were rough, and the way the landing occurred was called the “envelope expansion” conditions. After this launch, SpaceX might not cancel launches as often due to weather conditions.
Why Elon plans to deploy 42,000 Starlink satellites?
As one can understand from the name, StarLink is a constellation of satellites on Earth’s lower orbit. The satellites aim to provide proper high-speed internet connectivity to every nook and corner of the planet. So, next time someone is stuck in a desert or forest, they don’t have to worry about connectivity or even getting lost. The satellites will work together with the ground transceivers set up on the planet. The company also plans to use the technology to provide seamless connectivity to the military who need it the most.
The research on the Starlink satellites has been conducted for quite a while now. SpaceX has probably been figuring out everything about the same for over a decade. The company also estimated a total cost of $10 billion for the project. Even though the ultimate target is to launch 42,000 satellites to space, initial plans are around 1400-1500. And once that happens, SpaceX will provide an almost global service with that number of satellites.
Beta testing for the network is already on, and the US, southern Canada, and parts of Europe are receiving the network. Those who have been using and are the early subscribers are reporting speeds of more than 200 Mbps, which is higher than advertised. Initially, the plan was to launch only 12,000 satellites over some time. But the FCC said in 2019 to add another 30,000 satellites to make the network even better and faster.
How long before we can start using Starlink internet?
The way that Starlink has been advertised is that it will work anywhere, which is a bold claim. And yes, with a very large mesh of satellites, it is going to be possible. But as of now, I don’t think we are there. The company knows that and hasn’t started rolling out proper service yet. With the number of satellites that we have in the lower Earth orbit, there are bound to be blind spots. Reports suggest that the company will launch 12,000 satellites to space by the end of 2027. And that date is still six years away.
Till then, users who are lucky and fall in a zone where they are getting service will use it. But not everyone will have access to the Starlink internet. Another essential thing to look for will be the speed of the internet. Yes, as of now, users are claiming more than 200 Mbps speeds. But as the number of users grows, it will be essential to see how drastically the speeds get affected. I hope it doesn’t get reduced like mobile data speeds.
Elon Musk also plans to build a similar satellite constellation for Mars once we reach there. He also talked about a way to maintain connectivity between Earth and Mars using a high-intensity laser beam. What are your thoughts on the 60 Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX? Do let us know in the comments below. Also, if you found our content informative, do like it and share it with your friends.