Falcon 9 sets reuse milestone with launch of Starlink
REYKJAVÍK, Iceland – A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched a new set of Starlink satellites on December 18, establishing a new reusability mark for the vehicle.
The Falcon 9 took off from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 7:41 a.m. EST. The rocket’s top stage deployed a payload of 52 satellites into a medium-tilt orbit nearly 16 minutes later.
The first stage of the rocket landed on the “Of course, I still love you” droneship about eight and a half minutes after takeoff. The booster made its eleventh flight, a record for SpaceX. The stage was first used for the Demo-1 commercial crew test flight in March 2019 and subsequently launched the Radarsat Constellation mission, the SMX-7 radio satellite, and seven sets of Starlink satellites.
With this mission, SpaceX launched nearly 1,950 Starlink satellites, of which approximately 1,800 are in orbit. Of SpaceX’s 29 Falcon 9 launches this year – another record for the company – 17 had Starlink satellites as their primary payload.
SpaceX continues to expand both the Starlink constellation and its customer base. Speaking at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week, Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of Starlink and commercial sales at SpaceX, said the company has more than 100,000 home and business customers to date. “We’re just warming up,” he said.
Starlink currently operates in 20 countries. “There are probably several dozen more in the works,” he said, citing the efforts of a dedicated SpaceX market access team.
A major theme of the conference was the ability to provide “multi-orbital” solutions, combining communication satellites in geostationary orbit with constellations in low or medium earth orbit. Proponents of such approaches, mainly GEO satellite operators, argue that multi-orbital systems combine the best of geostationary and non-geostationary systems, with GEO systems providing more capacity in targeted areas, such as cities, while systems NGSO provide low latency services where needed.
Hofeller said SpaceX is not looking to offer Starlink as part of a multi-orbit solution in partnership with a GEO operator. “We are open to exploring areas where LEO and GEO make sense, and we continue to be open,” he said. “We haven’t yet found the exact solution that works best.”
“I question the convention that the advantage of GEO is its high density in certain areas,” he continued. “There is no reason that LEO cannot be high density manual bandwidth in high density areas. “
“If they have a choice between a more complex hybrid solution or one that can deliver low latency and high speed at all times and meet their speed and bandwidth requirements, they will choose the simpler solution. with the simplest architecture LEO provides, ”he said. noted.
It requires a lot of capacity, which Hofeller said SpaceX is working hard to provide. “It’s a very different approach to other constellations, where we’re just increasing the capacity in orbit tremendously and finding out how we best use it. “