In a sign of things to come next year, SpaceX’s next – and third – 60-satellite Starlink launch is officially on the books, and – if all goes as planned – could make the company the proud owner of the world’s largest operational satellite constellation.
SpaceX says that they are targeting no earlier than December for the next Starlink mission from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral.
— Michael Baylor (@nextspaceflight) November 24, 2019
On May 24th, Falcon 9 lifted off for the first time ever on a dedicated Starlink launch, placing 60 ‘v0.9’ prototype satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), where they deployed solar arrays and fired up their own electric krypton thrusters to reach their operational ~550 km (340 mi) orbits. Of those 60 prototypes, several were intentionally deorbited while another handful suffered unintended failures, while 51 (85%) ultimately reached that final orbit and began operations.
Previously expected in mid-October, unspecified delays pushed SpaceX’s next Starlink launch – deemed Starlink-1, the first launch of ‘v1.0’ satellites – into November. On November 11th, Falcon 9 B1048 and a flight-proven payload fairing lifted off with 60 more Starlink satellites, also marking the first time a Falcon 9 booster completed four orbital launches and the first operational reuse of a recovered fairing. Upgraded with four times the overall bandwidth, improved structures, new Ka-band antennas, and more steerable ‘beams’ on each of those antennas, those 60 Starlink v1.0 satellites rapidly came online and began raising their orbits.