SpaceX to Launch 60 Starlink Satellites on Wednesday.

60 Starlink satellites inside the Falcon 9 payload fairing. (Credit: Elon Musk)

Elon Musk tweeted this photo of 60 Starlink satellites inside the fairing of a Falcon 9 rocket scheduled to launch on Wednesday from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The satellites are part of a constellation of nearly 12,000 spacecraft designed to provide fast global broadband services.

  • Jeff Smith

    Two stacks of 30 each?

  • Terry Stetler

    Musk also said no dispenser. 2×30 is as good a guess as I’ve heard, with high level origami part of the design. Imagine how many Starship will carry.

    Jezzzz…these guys never let up.

  • therealdmt

    They definitely think big

  • Jeff Smith

    I simply counted 30 unique rows. So if it’s 60, that’s gonna mean I’m looking at 2 columns.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I’m seeing 4 quadrants of 15, which implies each is about 600x1400x1400 ish! – that’s about 2’x4.5’x4.5′ for the not yet metric. Supposedly 13 tonnes total, so in the region of 200kg each.

  • Saturn1300

    Any parts from Home Depot?

  • Since the fairing is practically full and since this metal payload is only 13 tonnes, does this prove that Falcon Rockets are volume and not mass constrained?

  • ThomasLMatula

    He indicated this launch is going to consist of pre-production test satellites. The FAA is allowing him up to 75 in this first phase so it looks like he decided to do them all in one flight.

    Since the first generation constellation consists of 1500 satellites he will only need 25 Falcon 9R launches to deploy it.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    It’s a good point. Ironic that the “customer” most constrained by that lack of fairing volume is SpaceX themselves. Of course SS/SH will make the point moot.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Remember these are going into more than a single orbital plane. Also less payload makes recovery of the booster easier.

  • Kirk

    Seems likely, but Michael Vaicaitisb (above) sees four stacks of 15, and over on NSF OneSpeed posits a single stack of 60 :

    There is a third possibility. If it is two stacks of 30, each satellite appears to have two layers. It could actually be a single stack of 60 satellites (0.15m deep), with 30 pairs facing each other, and rotated 180° from each other. If the propellant tanks are sufficiently off centre, they could be twice the depth of each flat packed satellite.

  • duheagle

    That’s what it looks like to me. So two sats in each tier. They probably pop off the top of the stack in pairs, then each pair separates and moves on opposite vectors laterally. After that, each separate sat may unfold in some fashion. A neat show if the deployment cam in the fairing is left on. I hope it is.

  • duheagle

    That was my thought also.

  • duheagle

    Ah, sweet mysteries of life!

  • duheagle

    Do we know that? It could easily be true, but I’ve seen nothing definite on that point from SpaceX.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Same fairing is used for high energy missions where mass becomes constraint.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I recall an article indicating multiple planes for the original constellation, but nothing on this first launch other than the lower altitude. Since this launch is testing how they will be deployed we have to see.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    And at 60 birds my BOE guesstimate is around 350K per bird in launch costs, factoring a reused booster and fairing. I wouldn’t even be surprised if it is lower.

  • Adjure

    Space junk horror movie.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    No these are production satellites, but early production so testing still.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Welcome back Gary!

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    And for the home gamers OneWeb put up six satellites (planned for ten originally) on Soyuz. Blue better get NG up and running or those guys are screwed..

  • Terry Stetler

    Musk tweeted more info in the launch webcast. ISTM a new animation etc. are likely.

  • windbourne

    very little doubt that F9/H are volume constrained. I was amazed that they kept that head so small.

  • duheagle

    The hot fire is supposed to take place today (May 13th). With the launch itself scheduled just two days hence, I’m guessing the hot fire is going to be done with the payload already aboard. All the other details about which we are still curious will, one hopes, be explained – and, one also hopes, shown – as part of the webcast.

  • duheagle

    Booga, booga!

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, very early since they don’t have the inter satellite linking, just ground to satellite, so they won’t be part of the actual constellation. That is why they they are listed as test satellites by the FCC on its license.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Given that logic no satellite is part of a “constellation”. Is Iridium not part of a constellation? GPS? The OneWeb “constellation” is never planned to have inter-sat links.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Don’t worry, you aren’t the target market for Starlink initially anyway.

  • redneck

    Isn’t comprehension a prerequisite for the ability to worry?

  • Robert G. Oler

    I’ll be curious to see how it works as well…I am also interested in the cost

  • ThomasLMatula

    Other Constellations, other standards. In the case of Starlink these aren’t considered part of their operation constellation so they shouldn’t count towards the total of operation satellites allowed by the FCC since they are test satellites. BTW, some more info on the launch.

    https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/05/13/falcon-9-rocket-rolled-out-for-first-dedicated-starlink-launch/

    Falcon 9 rocket rolled out for first dedicated Starlink launch
    May 13, 2019
    Stephen Clark

    “They’re capable, but there are no inter-satellite links on it,” Shotwell said. “I’ll call them test-class satellites, but the antennas are pretty hot on these things. They’re a very capable system.”

    The operational Starlink fleet will use laser inter-satellite links to hand off Internet connections around the world without routing the signals through a ground station. The satellites also use electric propulsion for in-orbit maneuvers.”

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Yes, it is an important optimization to the network (especially for the backhaul customers) but it doesn’t mean these sats can’t be used without inter-links, just like the OneWeb ones (which are never planned to have inter-links).

  • ThomasLMatula

    In case anyone cares the static fire was successful.

    https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-falcon-9-starlink-static-fire/

    SpaceX static fires Falcon 9 with satellites on board for the first time in years
    By Eric Ralph

    Posted on May 14, 2019