High winds force SpaceX to postpone first launch of Starlink satellites

Olive Hawkins
May 18, 2019

In its final form, Starlink will consist of almost 12,000 satellites - six times the number of all operational spacecraft now in orbit - in several orbital "shells". In February, satellites built by Airbus SE and partner OneWeb blasted off from French Guiana, the first step in a similar plan to give millions of people in remote and rural areas high-speed internet from space.

SpaceX first filed for permits for the new constellation of satellites in 2016. But when the likes of Amazon, OneWeb, Telesat, LeoSat and others intending placing - between them - thousands of satellites into orbit then the risks become greater.

If the venture turns successful, it will make SpaceX the first operator of an internet satellite network and also the sole competitor in this domain with its own rockets.

The military will assess the launch with an eye toward future missions that depend on SpaceX's reusable boosters, the Air Force said. SpaceX confirmed the completion of the static hearth take a look at Monday evening, setting the stage for liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket throughout a 90-minute window opening at 10:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0230 GMT Thursday) from Cape Canaveral's Complicated 40 launch pad.

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An illustration of Starlink, a fleet or constellation of internet-providing satellites designed by SpaceX.

There are roughly 2,100 operational satellites in orbit today from all the world's satellite operators, according to a report from Bryce Space and Technology issued May 8.

"Each company has to launch a certain number of satellites to provide commercial services", said Tom Stroup, president of the Satellite Industry Association in Washington. Unlike with some other recent launches which had instantaneous launch opportunities, the Starlink launch will have exactly one and a half hours to get off the ground. SpaceX chose krypton because it is less expensive than xenon, Musk said. The idea is to put up tiny satellites that stay in orbit much closer to home. That, in turn, would help the compete fund its next generation rocket, known as Starship, the company hopes to use to fly to the moon and eventually to Mars, he said.

The biggest problems with satellite-based internet service right now are that it's too pricey for common consumers, and the satellites are so far from Earth that they have frustrating dial-up era lag times. Effectively a testbed for SpaceX to gain experience building an operating rockets made out of steel, Starhopper is unlikely to ever move beyond low-speed, low-altitude hover tests.

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