Three Launches & a Hot Fire in Three Days

Fully loading the propellant and detecting no leaks is a major milestone for the Green Run test series. A total of 114 tanker trucks delivered propellant to six propellant barges next to the B-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA)

The upcoming holiday weekend (Martin Luther King Day on Monday) will see NASA conduct the long awaited Green Run hot fire of its Space Launch System rocket core and orbital launches by Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit and SpaceX involving 71 satellites.

Saturday, January 16

Launch Vehicle: Rocket Lab Electron
Mission Name: “Another One Leaves the Crust”
Payload: OHB Group micro communications satellites
Launch Time: 2:41 EST (0741 UTC)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com (begins 15 minutes prior to launch)

UPDATE: Launch scrubbed as engineers examine sensor data. They have a 10-day launch window.

Hot Fire: Space Launch System Core
Test Window: 5-7 p.m. EST (2200–0000 UTC)
Test Site: Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Webcast: www.nasa.gov (begins at 4:20 p.m. EST/2120 UTC)
Post-test Briefing: Approximately two hours after test completion on NASA website

Sunday, January 17

Launch Vehicle: Virgin Orbit LauncherOne/Cosmic Girl
Mission Name: NASA ELaNa-20 mission
Payloads: 10 CubeSats
Launch Window: 1:00-5:00 p.m. EST (1800-2200 UMT)
Launch Sites: Mojave Air and Space Port, California (Cosmic Girl Boeing 747), Pacific Ocean (LauncherOne)

Monday, January 18

Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
Mission Name: Starlink V1.0-L16
Payloads: 60 Starlink broadband satellites
Launch Time: 8:45 a.m. EST (1345 UTC)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com (begins 15 minutes before launch)

EU Eyes Satellite Broadband Network

Concerned about being left behind, the European Union (EU) is looking to develop a satellite broadband constellation to keep up with systems being built by OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink.

BBC News reports that EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton believes there’s not a moment to lose.

“My objective is to go fast. And therefore it would be appropriate that the Commission puts forward this year a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council so we can move concretely,” he told the 13th European Space Conference on Tuesday.

“To be ready, we launched a few weeks ago a study on a secure space-based connectivity system. The selected consortium consisting of European satellite manufacturers, operators and service providers, telco operators and launch service providers will study the possible design and development of this project.”

“This will provide insights on the technical dimension, but also the governance structure, the financing, the missions, the exact scope. I expect their first feedback in April this year.”

[….]

[EU officials] talk about a mix of low, medium and geostationary satellites that use advanced quantum encryption, are interlinked with optical connectors, and which piggyback sensors that might also be used to monitor aviation and shipping – just as examples. But, they argue, fast, secure, low-latency, space-borne connectivity will be the must-have capability to enable a raft of coming technologies, such as self-driving cars.

EU officials are hoping to have some initial capability as early as 2024.

Study Confirms Dark Coating Can Reduce Satellite Reflectivity

The trail of a Starlink satellite (the line from upper right to lower left) captured by the Murikabushi Telescope on April 10, 2020. (Credit: NAOJ)

TOKYO (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan PR) — Observations conducted by the Murikabushi Telescope of Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory confirmed that dark coating can reduce satellite reflectivity by half.

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SpaceX Launches 16th Starlink Mission

Credit: SpaceX

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Tuesday, November 24 at 9:13 p.m. EST, SpaceX launched its sixteenth Starlink mission from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster that supported this mission previously flew on six other missions: the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018, the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019, and four Starlink missions in May 2019, January 2020, June 2020, and August 2020.

ollowing stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which was located in the Atlantic Ocean. One half of Falcon 9’s fairing previously supported a mission, and the other half previously supported two.

Last month, SpaceX launched its “Better Than Nothing Beta” test program. Service invites were sent to a portion of those who requested availability updates on Starlink.com and who live in serviceable areas.

A couple weeks ago, Canada granted Starlink regulatory approval and SpaceX has now rolled out the service to parts of southern Canada.

If you would like to learn more about the service, please visit the Reddit AMA SpaceX engineers recently participated in.

Sunday SpaceX Starlink Satellite Launch

Falcon 9 payload shroud. (Credit: SpaceX)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Sunday, November 22 for launch of its sixteenth Starlink mission, which will launch 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The instantaneous launch window is at 9:56 p.m. EST, 02:56 UTC on Monday, November 23.

You can watch a live webcast of this mission, which will begin about 15 minutes prior to liftoff.

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SpaceX Gets Final Approval to Offer Starlink Service in Canada

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada grated the approval last week for Starlink’s satellite broadband service.

The approval followed last month’s decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to grant SpaceX a Basic International Telecommunications Services license to offer the Starlink service.

Starlink recently opened the service for public beta testing in the United States. According to an invitation email posted on Reddit, U.S. beta testers the satellite Internet service can look forward to:

  • Data speeds of 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s
  • Latency from 20ms to 40ms for the next several months
  • Brief periods of no connectivity at all
  • Spending $499 for the phased-array user terminal, mounting tripod and router
  • Paying a monthly subscription of $99.

SpaceX has launched 895 Starlink satellites as part of a constellation that will eventually total nearly 12,000 spacecraft. A number of the launched satellites are no longer functioning or have been deorbited.

“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically. For latency, we expect to achiev 16ms to 19ms by summer 2021,” SpaceX said in the email.

LeoLabs Announces Deal to Support Tracking of SpaceX Starlink Satellites

LeoLabs has announced an agreement with SpaceX to support tracking of the company’s Starlink broadband satellites during the initial phase of their missions.

Under this partnership, SpaceX utilizes LeoLabs  Launch and Early Orbit service to track all Starlink satellites beginning immediately after deployment, providing SpaceX with rapid orbital location and identification support during the first few days of new missions.

“LeoLabs is excited to work with SpaceX as they launch the world’s largest constellation of satellites to provide global broadband internet access,” said LeoLabs CEO Dan Ceperley. “Our global radar network and software platform allow LeoLabs to acquire an entire batch of Starlink satellites faster than any other organization in the world and provides SpaceX with a level of certainty that was previously not available.”

You can read more here.

SpaceX’s Starlink Beta Test Costs $499 for Terminal, $99 per Month

60 Starlink satellites begin to separate after deployment from the Falcon 9 second stage. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service has launched an invitation-only public beta test that Elon Musk’s company is calling the Better Than Nothing Beta.

According to an invitation email posted on Reddit, people testing the satellite Internet service can look forward to:

  • Data speeds of 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s
  • Latency from 20ms to 40ms for the next several months
  • Brief periods of no connectivity at all
  • Spending $499 for the phased-array user terminal, mounting tripod and router
  • Paying a monthly subscription of $99.

SpaceX has launched 895 Starlink satellites as part of a constellation that will eventually total nearly 12,000 spacecraft. A number of the launched satellites are no longer functioning or have been deorbited.

“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically. For latency, we expect to achiev 16ms to 19ms by summer 2021,” SpaceX said in the email.

SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Satellites on 100th Successful Mission

SpaceX launched 60 Starlink broadband satellites into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 on Saturday, completing the company’s 100th successful launch since the first successful Falcon 1 launch in September 2008.

The 15th dedicated Starlink flight brought to the number of constellation satellites launched to 895. A number of satellites have been deorbited or failed.

Falcon 9 lifted off at 11:31 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Launching for the third time, Falcon 9’s first stage touched down on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. The stage previously flew for the GPS III 03 mission in June 2020 and a Starlink mission in September 2020. 

Starlink is designed to provide fast broadband service across the globe. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given Elon Musk’s company permission to launch nearly 12,000 Starlink satellites. SpaceX has applied to raise that number by 30,000 to 42,000.

The company has been conducting a private beta test of the Starlink constellation. Musk has said SpaceX will begin a public beta test soon.

SpaceX Wins License to Operate Starlink in Canada

SpaceX has received a Basic International Telecommunications Services (BITS) license from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to offer its Starlink satellite broadband service north of the border.

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Microsoft’s Azure Space Partners with SpaceX, SES, Viasat and Others

Credit: Microsoft

SEATTLE (Microsoft PR) — Microsoft is moving into the final frontier with Azure Space, a new initiative that will deliver innovation to serve the mission needs of the space industry, and collaborating with industry leaders to bring new and enhanced offerings to organizations across the public and private sector.

As barriers to space access fall, organizations across a multitude of industries are taking advantage of the opportunities that satellites and other space technologies can offer for endeavors such as earth observation and global satellite communications. This creates rich opportunities as well as challenges.

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SpaceX’s Starlink Satellite Broadband Service Nears Public Beta

60 Starlink satellites begin to separate after deployment from the Falcon 9 second stage. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the company is close to public beta testing on its Starlink satellite broadband service after the launch of 60 additional satellites aboard a Falcon 9 booster on Tuesday.

“We will be able to roll out a fairly wide public beta [service] in northern US and hopefully southern Canada,” he tweeted. “Other countries to follow as soon as we receive regulatory approval.”

The satellites launched this week will first need time to reach their operational locations. Smallsat News reports:

Normally it would take about 2-3 weeks following launch to place a flight of satellites into their designated positions.

Musk’s SpaceX rockets have launched around 775 satellites into orbit and is expected to place another 60 into orbit before the end of October. However, a batch of satellites launched in May 2019 have been deliberately de-orbited. SpaceX has yet to give a reason for the de-orbiting.

Spaceflight analyst Jonathan McDowell says that 39 satellites were de-orbited from that May 2019 launch.

SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Satellites

A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, raising the number of spacecraft launched for the broadband Internet constellation to 775.

The successful flight followed three scrubs, two for bad weather and the other due to a ground sensor issue.

Falcon 9’s first stage successfully landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship. The booster previously supported launch of Crew Dragon’s first flight to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts onboard and the ANASIS-II mission. It was the 43rd flight with a reused first stage.

Ms. Tree recovering boat captured a fairing half that was used in two previous launches.