SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to provide high-speed communications to virtually any location on Earth got a big boost this week when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the company’s plan to add 7,518 satellites to the company’s Starlink constellation.
The action brings the total number of satellites in Starlink to 11,943 following the FCC’s earlier approval of 4,425 spacecraft last year.
Starlink is Musk’s ambitious entry into the global satellite Internet race. He is gambling big that there is a sufficient market worldwide to make the constellation profitable.
SpaceX launched two test Starlink test satellites into orbit earlier this year. Published reports say Musk wants to launch the first batch of satellites in the middle of next year, with service to begin in 2020.
Starlink is facing competition from OneWeb, which is planning to launch a constellation of 882 satellites to provide similar service. OneWeb plans to begin launching spacecraft next year.
The FCC also approved satellite broadband constellations by three other satellite companies last week. Telesat Canada received approval for an 117-satellite constellation while LeoSat plans to launch 78 spacecraft.
Kepler Communication’s 140-satellite constellation is focused on providing communications for the Internet of Things.
“These proposed satellite systems are expected to enable fixed satellite service in the United States, expanding global connectivity and advancing the goals of increasing high-speed broadband availability and competition in the marketplace,” the FCC said in a press release.
The constellations will greatly increase the number of satellites in Earth orbit. There are currently about 4,900 spacecraft in orbit out of the approximately 8,100 launched since the Space Age began in October 1957. Nearly 2,000 spacecraft are currently operational.
Russia plans to leapfrog Elon Musk’s “old tech” by developing nuclear-powered engines that will make human missions to Mars faster and safer for crews, the head of a research center told Russian media.
“Elon Musk is using the existing tech, developed a long time ago,” said Vladimir Koshlakov, head of the Keldysh Research Center. “He is a businessman; he took a solution that was already there, and applied it successfully. Notably, he is also doing his work with help from the government.”
Keldysh is working on a nuclear engines that will make human exploration of the Red Planet feasible within the near future, he added. The engines will allow cosmonauts to make the voyage in seven months.
“A person should not spend more than a year or two in space. Nuclear-powered spacecraft will allow a relatively fast journey, and, most importantly, a return flight. This technology has special significance for interplanetary flights and research of far planets,” Koshlakov said.
The Keldysh center has successfully conducted the first ground test of the nuclear engine’s cooling system, he added.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX successfully launched the Es’hail-2 satellite on Thursday, November 15 from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff occurred at 3:46 p.m. EST, or 20:46 UTC, and the satellite was deployed to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) about 32 minutes after liftoff.
Falcon 9’s first stage for the Es’hail-2 mission previously supported the Telstar 19 VANTAGE mission in July 2018. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX constellation includes 7,518 satellite Internet spacecraft
Three other approved constellations total 335 satellites
WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018 (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission today approved the requests of four companies—Space Exploration Holdings, LLC (SpaceX), Kepler Communications, Inc. (Kepler), Telesat Canada (Telesat), and LeoSat MA, Inc. (LeoSat)—seeking to roll-out new and expanded services using proposed non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) satellites.
These proposed satellite systems are expected to enable fixed satellite service in the United States, expanding global connectivity and advancing the goals of increasing high-speed broadband availability and competition in the marketplace.
HELSINKI, November 8 (ICEYE PR) – ICEYE, an Earth observation company creating the world’s largest Synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellite constellation, today confirmed it is launching the company’s second SAR satellite, ICEYE-X2, into low Earth orbit on Spaceflight’s SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission.
The mission is currently targeted to launch on November 19th from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. ICEYE-X2 will further showcase the capabilities of ICEYE’s SAR technology. This launch follows the success of ICEYE’s first satellite mission ICEYE-X1 earlier this year. The ICEYE-X2 satellite has recently finished all tests, and it has been shipped to the launch site.
HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) has certified as a Category 3 launch vehicle. Category 3 launch vehicles are certified to support NASA’s highest cost and most complex scientific missions. The following statement is from SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell:
“LSP Category 3 certification is a major achievement for the Falcon 9 team and represents another key milestone in our close partnership with NASA. We are honored to have the opportunity to provide cost-effective and reliable launch services to the country’s most critical scientific payloads.’
The process of designating launch vehicles as Category 3 is designed to assure the highest practical probability of success. Falcon 9 has completed over 60 missions, including the NASA LSP missions Jason-3 and TESS.
Kara Swisher of Recode posted an interview with Elon Musk last week. Below are lightly edited excepts concerning SpaceX and Musk’s plans for Mars.
Well let’s get to rockets, then. SpaceX. Last time we talked, you said you wanted to die on Mars, just not on landing. Which was a very funny joke, although it’s probably not a joke, it’s probably —
Well, it’d be ironic if that had happened. I have to be careful about tempting fate, because I think often the most ironic outcome is the most probable….
Instead of discussing your death, let’s discuss what’s going on at SpaceX. What are some of the things you’re doing?
We successfully launched the Falcon Heavy rocket, which is the most powerful rocket in the world by a factor of two. So that’s twice the power, twice the thrust of the next biggest rocket. And we actually launched a Tesla — my Tesla Roadster — to Mars orbit. The reason we did that is actually because, normally, when a new rocket is launched, you just put a dummy payload, which is like a block of concrete or something. (more…)
When astronauts splash down into the ocean after their journey to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, recovery teams must be able to transport them to land quickly. In the unlikely event of an astronaut medical emergency, SpaceX has outfitted its recovery ship, GO Searcher, with a medical treatment facility and a helipad in the center of the vessel.
Recently the company completed helicopter landing and patient loading rehearsals on the ship, practicing how the helicopter will pick up astronauts and fly them to a nearby hospital.
The aircraft will also serve to carry doctors and paramedics to care for the astronauts. This will allow the SpaceX medical team to provide the best possible care to astronauts on the ship, in-flight, and get them safely to a hospital.
In a normal scenario, Crew Dragon will splash down off of Florida’s eastern coast. GO Searcher is equipped with a crane to lift the capsule out of the water and onto the main deck of the ship. NASA and SpaceX doctors will work together to evaluate the crew onboard the vessel. From there, GO Searcher will head for Cape Canaveral, Florida, where SpaceX teams will take the astronauts to a nearby airport for transport back to Houston.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with Boeing and SpaceX to begin launching astronauts from American soil for the first time since 2011. The goal of the program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station from the United States. Commercial transportation to and from the space station will enable expanded station use, additional research time and broader opportunities of discovery aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Reutersreports that Elon Musk fired at least seven senior members of the management team of SpaceX’s Starlink program back in June over disagreements about the pace of developing the satellite Internet constellation.
Known for pushing aggressive deadlines, Musk quickly brought in new managers from SpaceX headquarters in California to replace a number of the managers he fired. Their mandate: Launch SpaceX’s first batch of U.S.-made satellites by the middle of next year, the sources said….
Among the managers fired from the Redmond office was SpaceX Vice President of Satellites Rajeev Badyal, an engineering and hardware veteran of Microsoft Corp and Hewlett-Packard, and top designer Mark Krebs, who worked in Google’s satellite and aircraft division, the employees said. Krebs declined to comment, and Badyal did not respond to requests for comment.
The management shakeup followed in-fighting over pressure from Musk to speed up satellite testing schedules, one of the sources said. SpaceX’s Behrend offered no comment on the matter.
Culture was also a challenge for recent hires, a second source said. A number of the managers had been hired from nearby technology giant Microsoft, where workers were more accustomed to longer development schedules than Musk’s famously short deadlines.
“Rajeev wanted three more iterations of test satellites,” one of the sources said. “Elon thinks we can do the job with cheaper and simpler satellites, sooner.”
Starlink aims to launch 4,425 satellites to provide Internet and other communications services to any place on the globe. A future constellation would bring the total number of satellites to about 12,000.
In February, Starlink launched two test satellites named Tintin A and Tintin B. The program faces competition from OneWeb and other companies that are aiming for the same market.
By Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan, 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — To prepare for the arrival of human spaceflight tests next year, the 920th Rescue Wing along with the DoD Human Space Flight Support (HSFS) Office, NASA and SpaceX personnel joined forces to plan and execute a realistic medical evacuation exercise at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 25.
The team at our rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas completed a static fire test last night of the Falcon 9 booster that will launch SpaceX’s first demonstration mission for @NASA’s Commercial Crew Program – one step closer to flying astronauts to the @Space_Station! pic.twitter.com/iDYNoamCvU