Elon Musk’s ambitious project of providing global Internet is launching off tonight. If weather conditions permit, Space X will launch Falcon 9 to orbit at 7:30 PM PT and 10:30 PM ET over Cape Canaveral, Florida. You can watch along via Space X’s live stream.
The launch was first scheduled to take off Wednesday night, but due to the rough winds in the upper atmosphere, the lift-off was delayed for one day, according to the SpaceX webcast host.
Space X’s Falcon 9 will be carrying the first 60 Starlink satellites that will compose the Starlink constellation which will beam the Internet from space to all the regions of the Earth.
However, 60 satellites wouldn’t be enough to make the idea of global internet an acceptable reality. According to Musk, they will launch a total of 11,940 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit between now and the mid-2020s as part of Space X’s demonstration of the technology.
To put it into perspective, SpaceX will need “6 more launches of 60” satellites per launch to get “minor coverage” for the internet network, and a dozen launches, or 720 satellites, are needed “for moderate” coverage.” So we could expect about a dozen more launches from now until next year from Space X.
The problem that Space X is facing about their satellite delivery is more on the satellite’s mass rather than its weight. Each Starlink satellite weighs about 500 lbs each adding up to around 30,000 lbs of payload. The Falcon 9 can carry upwards 50,000 lbs but the current design prevents Space X from lugging more satellites at a time.
The satellite design has a “flat-panel design featuring multiple high-throughput antennas and a single solar array,” Musk says. In a tweet by Musk, we can see in the photos attached that the satellites are put in a “tight fit.”
However, the hurdle that the Starlink project needs to overcome is whether or not the production design they have developed for the satellites would show promise as it would greatly affect how Space X will move forward.
Primarily, Musk still needs to see if the deployment mechanisms of their solar panels will work effectively. As a precaution, they have two different sets of deployment mechanisms ready. Moreover, from the previous tests (Tintin a and Tintin B), they also made changes with the thrusters as well as phased array antennas that will await results as they get fully tested in space.
On the other hand, the satellites will also be deployed at a much lower orbit than what the team had expected. Even much lower than their test demonstrations back in February 2018.
Musk himself said in a tweet that a lot could go wrong in the first leg of this technology. There are a lot of things to consider and making tech intended for space is not an affordable venture. Other than, making sure that their satellites will work, they also have to keep investors happy with results. He also said during a teleconference “This is very hard. There is a lot of new technology, so it’s possible that some of these satellites may not work. There’s a small possibility that all of these satellites will not work.”
You can watch the livestream 15 minutes before liftoff here: