On June 13, SpaceX successfully launched another batch of Starlink satellites, bringing its total to 540. The launch, also carried out by the Falcon 9 rocket, landed at sea after completing the launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. In addition to the Starlink satellite, SpaceX has launched three small satellites called Skysats to observe Earth.
SpaceX’s launch schedule remains stable throughout 2020, although all external factors are likely to have a negative impact on the company. Now, after successfully sending astronauts to the International Space Station, the company is stepping up its tiny sideline project, which could provide high-speed data for much of the entire planet.
As Business Insider points out, SpaceX’s Starlink satellite launch schedule now looks absolutely crazy, with three launches planned in just 18 days. Assuming that each of these missions can launch a standard number of “Starlink” satellites (60 each), the company is ready to put nearly 200 communications satellites into orbit in less than three weeks.
The last of the three fast-paced missions, launched on June 22, will launch another 60 Starlink satellites into orbit, as well as two Earth observation satellites for a Seattle company called BlackSky Global. The mission was originally scheduled for June 24, but was advanced by two days.
By launching 60 satellites at a time, you might imagine SpaceX making significant progress on its larger goal of using the Starlink satellite grid to provide high-speed data services. While the company does plan to offer some services to a select group of testers as early as the end of 2020, the Starlink program has not even met some of the higher targets.
The company plans to eventually have tens of thousands of “Starlink” satellites, meshed around the Earth. Up to 54,000 small spacecraft will be needed to achieve SpaceX’s dream of providing ultra-fast data services to the most remote areas on Earth. It was a bold plan, but it was resisted by scientists. Astronomers have expressed their displeasure with SpaceX because it is called a “satellite tribe.” These tiny moons have appeared in space telescope situ, undermining the researchers’ observations.
SpaceX says it is doing its best to mitigate these unnecessary side effects by painting satellites in matte black and positioning them to avoid reflecting sunlight back to Earth. It remains to be seen whether these small measures will work in the long term.
SpaceX on Friday updated its Starlink satellite Internet program website to open up service testing applications as it continues to provide direct-to-consumer broadband service from space later this year.
The updated Starlink project website shows, “To get starlink project messages and updates on the availability of services in your area,” which requires the user to submit a form that contains the mailbox and zip code. This form allows potential customers to request to receive updates on starlink projects and to be given the opportunity to take the Starlink service public test.