SpaceX’s first-ever Starship is going to happen in the coming few weeks. As the long-awaited space launch happens, the company will be using the Starlink satellite to keep up with the communications. The launch is to take place from the Starbase launch site at Boca Chica.
The starship could reach a maximum altitude of 250 kilometers (km). For perspective, the International Space Station orbits at an approximate altitude of 400 km. It will be the first time SpaceX launches the Super Heavy rocket powered by 33 Raptor V2 engines. Soon after the rocket propels Starship to orbit, it will perform a landing either in the Gulf of Mexico or return to the launch pad to be ‘caught’ by the launch tower’s robotic arms.
In July, SpaceX submitted a new filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to request a Special Temporary Authority (STA) license to use Starlink communications during Starship’s debut orbital flight. In the FCC filing, SpaceX said it intends to demonstrate how Starlink is capable of beaming its internet signal while Starship crosses Earth’s rough atmosphere. Spacecraft usually lose communications when crossing at high velocity through the atmosphere because it heats up to extreme temperatures as high as 3,500°F (Fahrenheit) which inhibits radio transmissions.
The Starlink terminals will be mounted on the stainless-steel Starship SN24 and Super Heavy Booster 7 test vehicles that are currently undergoing preflight testing at the South Texas launch site. “Multiple Starlink terminals will be fitted to each vehicle to ensure a clear view of the SpaceX satellite constellation through the Starship flight profile. The terminals will use the same antenna and communications electronics as SpaceX’s previously authorized consumer terminals but with a revised enclosure and mounting that is suitable for the mission profile,” said SpaceX in the filing.
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“SpaceX intends to demonstrate high-data-rate communications with the Starship spacecraft and the Super Heavy booster on the ground at the launch site in Starbase, TX, during launch, in-flight operations, booster recovery, and spacecraft entry,” wrote SpaceX to the FCC. “SpaceX’s satellite constellation can provide unprecedented volumes of telemetry and enable communications during atmospheric entry when ionized plasma around the spacecraft inhibits conventional telemetry frequencies. These tests will demonstrate its ability to improve the efficiency and safety of future orbital spaceflight missions.” Having a reliable communication system aboard spacecraft is crucial to astronauts’ safety on future crewed missions. It is important to test the Starlink system to gather data and build a spacecraft communications system that uses the satellite constellation in Low Earth Orbit. To date, SpaceX has launched around 2,900 Starlink satellites that provide internet service across 37 countries.