SpaceX’s Starlink Constellation Construction Begins.

2,200 Satellites Will go up Over the Next 5 years

Elon Musk has made a lot of crazy promises and proposals over the years, which inevitably leads people to pester him about deadlines. Whether it’s reusable rockets, affordable electric cars, missions to Mars, intercontinental flights, or anything having to do with his many other ventures, the question inevitably is “when can we expect it?”

That question has certainly come up in relation to his promise to launch a constellation of broadband satellites that would help provide high-speed internet access to the entire world. In response, Musk recently announced that SpaceX will launch the first batch of Starlink satellites in May 2019, and will continue with launches for the next five years.

This represents a major milestone for the company, which has effectively moved from the development phase of this project to production. Another was reached back in February of 2018 when the company launched two Starlink demonstration satellites. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of details about this constellation that are still unclear.

Continue reading HERE.

May is only weeks away, but we do not know when in May the launches are scheduled.  There are no missions listed in the SpaceX launch manifest HERE.

It will be interesting to track the first Starlinks as they whizz about the planet. Stay Tuned.

 

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How Small are SpaceX and OneWeb Satellites

Russell Steele

oneweb__3

The OneWeb satellite has been described to be about the size of a beer refrigerator. That may be hard for some to visualize in the above graphic, so here is a beer refrigerator sold on Amazon.

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The SpaceX Starlink satellite is reported to be 1.1 meters (39in) long and 0.7 meters (28in) wide and 0.7 meters (28in) tall. The beer refrigerator above is 37.5 x 26.4 x 21.2 inches a bit smaller than a Starlink bird, but it gives you a sense of the size.

So, we can say these LEO Sats are about the size of a large beer cooler.

SpaceX Starts Launching Starlink Network in May 2019

SpaceX has announced a launch target of May 2019 for the first batch of operational Starlink satellites in a sign that the proposed internet satellite constellation has reached a major milestone, effectively transitioning from pure research and development to serious manufacturing. R&D will continue as SpaceX Starlink engineers work to implement the true final design of the first several hundred or thousand spacecraft, but a significant amount of the team’s work will now be centered on producing as many Starlink satellites as possible, as quickly as possible.

With anywhere from 4400 to nearly 12,000 satellites needed to complete the three major proposed phases of Starlink, SpaceX will have to build and launch more than 2200 satellites in the next five years, averaging 44 high-performance, low-cost spacecraft built and launched every month for the next 60 months.

Source: Tesalarati

My question is how many in the first batch,  twenty-five, or more.  One estimate:

Using a Falcon 9 at 25 satellites per launch it would take 177 flights, about 36 flights per year. Using a Falcon Heavy with 40 satellites it would take 112 flights, over 5 years that’s about 22 flights per year. Using a BFR assuming 350 satellites per launch, until someone comes up with a better number, would need 13 flights total.

Source: Reddit Starlink FAQ

GeekWire has Some Amazon Broadband Insight

If Project Kuiper comes to fruition, would Amazon, SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat and other broadband players be chasing after the same customers in remote or underdeveloped regions of the world? Or would there be market segmentation?

You could argue that the biggest users of Amazon’s satellites will be … Amazon and its customers.

For example, Prime Video could offer streaming services worldwide via satellite (which could provide an edge over Netflix). The ability to provide cloud computing services to virtually anywhere in the world would be an attractive differentiator for Amazon Web Services (which already has a cloud-based platform for satellite management known as AWS Ground Station). And a global data network would make it a lot easier for Amazon to manage drones, robotic ground vehicles and all the other next-generation delivery channels it’s developing.

When you add the potential for taking orders and serving ads via a ubiquitous internet service, Project Kuiper looks less like a far-out fantasy and more like the final frontier for commerce. Amazon isn’t posting any job openings for satellite service marketers yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time.

Full Article is HERE. This is another opportunity for Amazon to change the business model once again. Another delivery systems totally under their control.  This is more than just a broadband delivery system.  Another Amazon Game Changer!  Stay Tuned!

 

SpaceX Starlink Progress Report

SpaceX Starlink spacecraft design continues to evolve according to a 13 March letter to the FCC, responding to questions on the Constellation architecture. The initial fleet of 75 Starlink spacecraft will include iron components including hall thrusters and reaction wheels which could survive reentry.

According to the attached letter:

  • The new spacecraft design is 100% consumable during atmospheric reentry.
  • Spacecraft will initially be launched to ~350km for orbital checkout prior to rising to its operational altitude.
  • Failure to check out the spacecraft will fall back to earth in weeks or months depending on how active the sun is. An active sun expands the atmosphere increasing drag.

Attached Letter HERE.

SpaceX User Earth Stations

As a future user of Starlink I was wondering what the user earth stations would look like, how much they would cost and what the monthly user fee might be.

SpaceX has petitioned the FCC to approve the deployment of 1 million Starlink user terminals. According to an interview with Elon Musk in 2015, the laptop-sized terminals are expected to cost between $100 and $300 each.

Each terminal uses a phased array antenna to communicate with satellites when they are 40 degrees above the horizon. However, in initial deployment, this viewing angle may be as low as 25 degrees to increase coverage with a minimum constellation of satellites.

The minimum fleet of Starlink satellites could be as low as 800, with 1,600 the phase one target. With the deployment of 2,825 phase two satellites, a network simulation indicates a single terminal could see 40 to 60 satellites overhead at any one instant, depending on end the user’s earth station latitude.

According to testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Commission by Patricia Cooper, VP Satellite Government Affairs at SpaceX.

For the end consumer, SpaceX user terminals—essentially, a relatively small flat panel, roughly the size of a laptop—will use similar phased array technologies to allow for highly directive, steered antenna beams that track the system’s low-Earth orbit satellites.

The user terminals operate in the Ku and Ka-Bands:

a. The Satellite to User Terminal downlink is at 10.7GHz to 12.7 GHz.
b. The User Terminal to Satellite uplink is from 14.0GHz to 14.5 GHz.

I could not find any photos of a prototype users terminal. Will this terminal be a portable device or device fixed to the roof of a structure like this OneWeb access terminal? I guess that both options may be available.

OneWeb Terminal

SpaceX has just started hiring engineers and designer to build their user terminals, some stationed in Redmond WA and other at the Hawthorne facility in CA

Given my interest in someday being a Starlink user, I will continue to follow the user station development, and uncover some answers on user cost and deployment configurations. Stay Tuned!