The upgrade signals a new phase for satellite broadband networks.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is gearing up for a big flight on Wednesday as the company enters the space tourism business by launching four civilians into space. starlink satellite broadband network.. But a Falcon 9 launch on Monday evening marked the start of the company’s next phase of pioneering development
The company landed and deployed 51 new small satellites, all equipped with laser cross-links, which represent the beginning of a major upgrade to the soaring mega-constellation in low Earth orbit.
SpaceX had not launched any new Starlink flying routers since June 30. Two months is an extraordinarily long break for a program that at times manages to launch nearly weekly to build its worldwide high-speed Internet access offering.
To date, SpaceX has launched more than 1,700 Starlinks, with thousands more planned for years to come.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell revealed at the Space Symposium in Colorado on August 24 that the pause in Starlink deployment was to allow the next batch of satellites to be equipped with laser links, allowing them to communicate with each other in orbit.
Laser CrossLinks, something SpaceX has long touted as part of its Starlink plan, allows networks to operate with fewer ground stations and data to be routed around the constellation without having to “hop” for long periods of time. It is also meant to reduce latency by allowing . ground and orbit.
Ten satellites with laser links were launched into polar orbit in January to avoid the need for ground stations near the poles. This small batch was equipped with the technology for the first time, but SpaceX hopes Monday’s launch marks a transition for all Starlink satellites moving forward carrying laser crosslinks.
The mission also marks a homecoming of sorts for Starlink. It was the first launch for the project from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California since the first two test satellites,, was withdrawn on February 22, 2018.
A Falcon 9 loaded with Next-Generation 51 Starlinks detonated at 8:55 p.m. PT. The first stage booster launched and landed for the 10th time, bearing the company mark for booster recycling. It touched down on the droneship of course I Still Love You in the Pacific Ocean and will be back in port to see if it has an 11th flight at some point in the future.
You can re-watch the entire mission via the feed at the top of this page.