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300 SATELLITES, 7 MONTHS
As mentioned above, SpaceX applied for four FCC STA licenses – effectively communications-related launch permits – on August 30th, all for Starlink missions with nominal No Earlier Than (NET) launch dates in 2019. It must be noted that it’s exceptionally rare for the starting dates of STAs to actually correlate with launch dates, but a best-case scenario typically sees a given launch occur within a handful of weeks of that date. STAs last six months, providing plenty of buffer for all but the most extreme launch delays.
Mission Date (NET)
Starlink-1 October 10th
Starlink-2 October 25th
Starlink-3 November 13th
Starlink-4 December 8th
Of note, NASASpaceflight.com recently published Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and Kennedy Space Center (KSC) planning dates for SpaceX’s next two Starlink missions, confirming that the company is planning for launches roughly one week after the dates on its newly-requested FCC STAs. Those official planning dates show two back-to-back Starlink launches no earlier than (NET) October 17th and November 4th.
SERVING CUSTOMERS SOONER
According to SpaceX’s Starlink.com website, Starlink will be able to start serving customers at Northern US and southern Canadian latitudes after just six launches (360 satellites), with limited “global coverage of the populated world” available after 24 launches (1440 satellites). However, per an FCC license modification request published on August 30th, the same day as 8 launch STAs, the company believes it can dramatically expedite Starlink coverage (regardless of launch rate) with one relatively simple modification.
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The Race is on to become operational!!