After high winds forced a delay Monday morning, SpaceX rescheduled for Wednesday its plans to send the next batch of Starlink internet relay satellites into orbit. At that point, SpaceX will have boosted 240 Starlink satellites in a rapid-fire push to deploy a globe-spanning constellation of broadband beacons. By mid-2020, the company hopes to have more than 700 satellites in space, enough to begin offering commercial satellite broadband service across much of North America.
Professional and amateur astronomers alike worry the reflectivity and radio emissions from the Starlink satellites, and rival constellations being built by, will impact sensitive observations. SpaceX officials say the company is working on , but launches are proceeding in the meantime.
The California rocket builder had planned to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a fourth batch of 60 Starlink satellites Monday, but the flight was delayed 24 hours because of high winds aloft. Launch attempts last week were called off ahead of time due to high winds and rough seas in the offshore booster recovery zone. The company plans to make another attempt Tuesday at 9:28 a.m. EST.
As usual, SpaceX plans to recover the Falcon 9’s first stage after it boosts the upper stage and its 60-satellite Starlink payload out of the lower atmosphere. Landing on the droneship “Of Course I Still Love You” northeast of Cape Canaveral is expected about eight-and-a-half minutes after launch.
SpaceX recovery crews on two other ships, the “Ms. Tree” and “Ms. Chief,” were also expected to attempt recovery of the two halves of the protective payload fairing about 35 minutes later.
to launch more than 12,000 mass-produced Starlink satellites in multiple orbital planes and altitudes, a vast constellation intended to beam uninterrupted commercial broadband signals to customers with small user terminals in under-served areas around the world.
By mid-2020, after a dozen Falcon 9 flights, enough satellites will be in orbit to provide limited coverage across most of the continental United States and Canada. Gaps near the equator will still exist until more orbital planes can be populated.
“Twelve launches gets us connectivity with no gaps down to a latitude of roughly 25 degrees (north and south latitude),” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told reporters late last year. “And then 24 missions gets us global coverage with no data gaps.”
“So what’s preventing us from providing service? Getting the right number of satellites up in orbit. We will start offering service (in mid-2020) because we have those 12 launches.”