SpaceX, the space transportation company founded by Elon Musk successfully launched 60 of its Starlink satellites. If everything goes properly, then the Starlink network of satellites can provide superfast internet connectivity across the globe.
Before the launch of the satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX announced that Starlink will make the entire earth connected through reliable and cheap broadband connectivity.
The first Starlink mission was broadcast by SpaceX which was launched by a Falcon 9 rocket at 10:30 pm ET on 24th May. Just over an hour of the liftoff, all the 30000 pounds of satellites were deployed by the rockets’ upper stage. This is the heaviest payload which the SpaceX has launched till date.
The release of spacecrafts took place 440 kilometres above the Earth’s surface over the Indian Ocean. The method of deployment was described as odd yet efficient by Elon Musk, as it managed to launch 60 satellites at once. Usually, during a multi-satellite deployment process, a device present at the uppermost stage of the rocket deploys them one after the another with the help of complex spring mechanisms. In December, SpaceX successfully deployed 64 satellites in this way with the help of one rocket.
However this time, a different process was followed by SpaceX. The rocket’s upper stage was spun resembling that of a baseball pitch and slowly the whole stack of Starlink satellites were launched. A SpaceX engineer, Tom Praderio commented that since they are no deployment mechanisms present, the satellites are actually launched like a deck of cards.
The size of an individual satellite is almost that of an office desk and its weight is closely 500 pounds. It is equipped with solar panels and has antennas present for transmission of data. Besides that, the spacecraft has an ion engine which releases krypton gas. It would prevent the Starlink satellite colliding with other satellites and avoid space junk. Once it nears its useful life, it would self-destruct. The engine will also power the satellite to an orbit of 550 kilometres above Earth.
However, the present batch of satellites lack a major component, laser beam interlinks. The future satellites will have these lasers for connecting with other four satellites. In this way, it will form a strong mesh network over Earth facilitating the internet speed almost to that of light’s speed in a vacuum. It is almost 50% greater than fibre-optic cables giving the Starlink satellites a great advantage over the current status.
SpaceX aims to deploy 12000 similar satellites before the deadline of 2027 set by the Federal Communications Commission. For reaching this goal, SpaceX needs to launch more than a mission per month through the next eight years. However, for making the concept work and generate revenue, it needs to launch only 1000 satellites which is way less than 12000.