Musk shares look of SpaceX’s first Internet satellites

Yolanda Curtis
May 14, 2019

The planned launch is part of SpaceX's multibillion-dollar Starlink project, which has been approved by the U.S. communications agency, to send nearly 12,000 satellites into space. The rocket company previously launched two of the experimental satellites in late February.

Musk noted that the 60 satellites to be launched this week are "production design", unlike its Tintin A and B demo satellites that were launched early past year.

One group, or constellation of 4,409 satellites, followed by a second constellation of 7,518 that will operate at a slightly lower altitude than the first.

These satellites have been called "demonstration satellites", according to SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, and they will serve as a deployment test. To start, competing companies, including OneWeb and Kepler Communications, both of which handle satellite solutions in space, argued that SpaceX's lower satellites would interfere with theirs. Musk warned that there might be issues since this is the first proper Starlink mission following an early 2018 launch that sent two demo satellites skyward. As a result, SpaceX successfully petitioned the FCC to fly some of its satellites in the lower orbit, based on what the company had learned from those test satellites. The flight is now scheduled for May 15th out of Cape Canaveral, Florida. Musk also adds that the firm needs to perform a further six launches of this type in order to have enough satellites in orbit to deliver "minor" broadband coverage. Musk hopes to launch a total of 12,000 satellites.

More details about the mission itself will be released on launch day but Elon Musk has stated that "much will likely go wrong" during this maiden flight.

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.

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