SpaceX will continue the deployment of its Starlink constellation with the launch of another sixty satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday. Liftoff from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre is expected at 08:27 Eastern Time (12:27 UTC).
Sunday’s launch is the thirteenth Falcon 9 mission to deploy operational Starlink satellites, designated Starlink v1.0 L13. This continues the first phase of Starlink deployment, which is aimed at setting up an initial operating capability and allowing SpaceX to begin rolling out its service. To do this, SpaceX expects to require at least 1,440 satellites in the first tranche alone. Since beginning operational launches, 713 Starlink spacecraft have been placed in orbit – with Sunday’s mission expected to add another sixty – although some of the spacecraft launched on earlier missions have already re-entered the atmosphere.
Starlink is a network of satellites which SpaceX intend to use to offer a worldwide commercial satellite internet service, with a particular focus on areas where traditional broadband services provide poor coverage. Unlike previous satellite broadband services, Starlink was designed to employ vast numbers of satellites in low orbits, reducing the round-trip time for signals and therefore the latency of connection compared to spacecraft in geostationary orbit. Beyond the initial 1,440-satellite-strong constellation, SpaceX has plans to launch up to 30,000 more spacecraft, replacing existing ones as they fail and adding new capacity as the system is rolled out worldwide. The company’s factory can produce 120 new satellites every month.