This Is How 60 Internet Satellites Bundled Together in a Rocket Look Like

Stalink satellites onboard the Falcon 9 1 photo
Photo: Elon Musk
Sometime this week, a Falcon 9 rocket will take off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying with it to orbit 60 of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. And this is how they all look like crammed together in the rocket’s fairing.
The image, revealed over the weekend, shows stacks of satellites neatly lined up for the deployment into orbit and the start of a revolution in terms of communications.

“First 60 @SpaceX Starlink satellites loaded into Falcon fairing. Tight fit,” Musk said in a tweet accompanying the photo.

The Starlink constellation is Musk’s idea of how to give the underserved parts of the world access to broadband internet connectivity. In all, 12,000 such satellites will surround the planet over the coming years.

But that’s a reality probably far into the future. So far, there has been only one launch of such satellites, a test one that took place in February 2018. This week’s mission is the first major deployment of the technology in space, as SpaceX plans to get them online in 2020.

Unlike last year’s hardware, the 60 now packed into the Falcon are “production design,” but according to SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell these are only scaled-down satellites.

It’s unclear how many launches will be needed to get all the hardware up in orbit, and for now Musk only previewed 17 such missions. Three of them are planned by the end of this year, with a total of at least six more launches of 60 satellites needed for minimum coverage.

The glorious plans of SpaceX already drew the attention of the U.S. Air Force, which in late 2018 awarded SpaceX funding for a test of the system for possible military use.

Elon Musk also eyes using the constellation as a communications array between Earth and Mars as soon as people start heading in that direction.

The Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch on May 15 or May 16, and Musk expects much to "go wrong on 1st mission."
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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