The latest upgrade signals a new phase for satellite broadband networks.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is gearing up for a big flight on Wednesday, when the company officially enters the space tourism business by launching four civilians into space.. But another Falcon 9 launch on Monday evening marks the start of the next phase of development for the company’s pioneering Starlink satellite broadband network.
SpaceX hasn’t launched any new Starlink flying routers since June 30. The two months is an extraordinarily long break for a program that sometimes manages to build its nascent constellation of satellites into low-Earth orbit nearly weekly launches that aim to beam high-speed internet around the world. Use.
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 that would enable the satellites to communicate with each other in orbit. makes.
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 expects Monday’s launch to mark a transition for all Starlink satellites moving forward carrying laser crosslinks.
The mission marks a homecoming of sorts for Starlink as the first launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California for the project since the first two test satellites,, was withdrawn on February 22, 2018.
A Falcon 9 loaded with next-generation Starlinks K51 is scheduled to explode at 8:55 p.m. PT.
The first stage booster used has been flown nine times before, including in seven Starlink missions. This 10th flight of the same rocket will tie the company’s existing mark for booster recycling. It will land in the Pacific Ocean on the droneship of course I Still Love You and return to port to see if it has its 11th flight at some point in the future.
The entire mission will be livestreamed by SpaceX and we’ll embed the feed here as it becomes available.