The much-awaited and heralded launch of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellite constellation has arrived. With the twice-flown Falcon 9 rocket on SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, SpaceX is targeting launch of the first batch of 60 Starlink satellites for tonight.
Liftoff is set for 22:30 EDT, the opening of a 90 minute launch window that closes at midnight local time. (Launch time in UTC is 02:30-04:00 on Thursday, 16 May.)
Starlink satellite configuration:
A flat and compact design that is “significantly more scalable and capable than its first experimental iteration”, noted SpaceX in the mission’s press kit.
In all, each Starlink satellite is equipped with multiple high-throughput antennas, a single solar array, and (crucially) Hall thrusters powered by krypton – all designed to bring low-latency, high-throughput internet services to every part of the world.
The Hall thrusters will allow each Starlink to independently maintain its orbit, adjust its position, and deorbit at the end of its operational life.
Starlink mission patch. (Credit: SpaceX)
Orbital position, navigation, and precision pointing for each Starlink is enabled in part by a Startracker system that is built upon the same Startracker used by the cargo and crew Dragon spacecrafts developed by SpaceX.