SpaceX has prepared a Falcon 9 rocket and a second set of 60 Starlink satellites for launch on Monday morning. The company is targeting 9:56 a.m. ET (14:56 UTC Monday) for the launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida. Meteorological conditions seem favorable to the launch attempt.
Following an "experimental" launch in May of 60 satellites, about 50 of which remain in orbit half a year later, SpaceX made several modifications to this second batch of Starlink satellites.
"SpaceX has increased end-user spectrum capacity through design improvements that maximize the use of both Ka and Ku bands," the company said in a news release. "In addition, the components of each satellite are 100% destructible and will quickly burn into the earth's atmosphere at the end of their life cycle – a measure that exceeds all current safety standards."
Starlink aims to provide low-latency broadband worldwide. By mid-2020, after six satellite launches, the company plans to begin offering parts of North America through land-based terminals to customers. Global coverage of the "populous world" will follow after the company completes 24 launches. The news made no comment about efforts to minimize the interruption of the night sky – which astronomers have expressed concern – from a constellation that may one day include more than 10,000 satellites.
SpaceX is just one of several companies, including Amazon and OneWeb, competing to create space internet services from low Earth orbit. With the second launch of maturing moons, SpaceX is leading the field. Although it is an ambitious financial gamble for the company, being able to fly 60 satellites at a time on reusable rockets will seem to give it an edge over other competitors who do not have such ready access to cheap and fast launch capabilities.
To this end, SpaceX will launch the mission Monday on the first leg of a Falcon 9 rocket, which has already flown three times. The company will also try to use payload re-bonding for the first time. This means that about 80% of the rocket will consist of previously launched materials.
About 8 minutes after launch, SpaceX will land the first leg of Falcon 9 on the Of Course I Still Love You, in the Atlantic Ocean. Then, about 45 minutes after launch, SpaceX is two recovery vessels, " Mrs. Tree "and" Madam. Boss, he'll try to restore the two halves. One hour after the mission, Starlink satellites are scheduled to be deployed at an initial altitude of 280 km.
Leaf image by Trevor Malman for Ars