SpaceX kicks off 2020 by launching Starlink satellites with change in design

Pablo Tucker
January 8, 2020

Also, this is the fourth round trip the Falcon 9 rocket has made.

Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched another array of satellites Monday evening as part of its planned Starlink worldwide internet service.

SpaceX hopes to launch a total of 20 Starlink missions in 2020 adding a total of 1,200 new satellites.

SpaceX already launched two sets of 60 satellites each past year, but they quickly drew concern from astronomers who have spotted the bright train of satellites in the night sky from areas across the globe. This will be done by satellites using their own onboard thrusters. Right now, Starlink has a number of 180 satellites and is expected to grow in number by the end of this year.

The satellites are delivered to an orbit 290 km above Earth. In response, SpaceX developed a darkening treatment to reduce reflectivity. At the launch of the initial Starlink project, Musk had said that operating at a high orbit would be too far away to provide low-priced coverage that the company aims to provide. This issue is on the agenda of the Society's Conference in Hawaii this week. He said it was too early to know if the dark coating would work, "but it is definitely just a first step and not enough to alleviate the problems astronomy will have with the Starlinks". It was unclear Monday night if that effort succeeded. The satellites are particularly visible shortly after they are offloaded from the rocket - as they tend to congregate in a mass before going off to their particular orbits. Currently, there are only 1500 to 2000 active satellites on the earth's orbit.

The said launching happened at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, making SpaceX as the main operator of the largest satellite fleet in the year 2020. Nevertheless, SpaceX has announced that it will provide the astronomy groups with the satellite coordinates in advance so that they can avoid the bright overflight times. Others are Jeff Bezos' Amazon and OneWeb.

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