Another SpaceX launch increases Starlink constellation to over 1,300 satellites as OneWeb builds their constellation.

Starlink Mission (3/14/21) by Official SpaceX Photos is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Launch by SpaceX put another 60 satellites into orbit, bringing the constellation of Starlink communication satellites to over 1,300. Launch by OneWeb put another 36 of their satellites in orbit for total of 146.

SpaceX and OneWeb are both making progress on developing a constellation of satellites which will provide Internet connectivity across the planet. Discussion of OneWeb’s progress follows description of SpaceX’s launch.

Oh, by the way, after reading this post I am confident you will agree that the future is so bright we ought to wear sunglasses all the time.

SpaceX

Starlink system will go fully operational when it hits 1,440 in orbit.

With 1,300 in orbit now, their system is in beta test mode.

Eventually the constellation could include many thousands of sats, since they had been licensed for up to 30,000 in orbit.

For more info:

This was the sixth flight for this particular booster. SpaceX has 58 flights which reused a booster. They are seeing tremendous success on recovery when the mission profile allows an attempt.

The fairings, which protect the payload, fall into the ocean. SpaceX is having increasing success at recovering the fairings. There are several dedicated ships which capture the fairings. Apparently, they are having success at pulling them out of the water and still being able to reuse them.

The SpaceX website reports these stats for the Falcon 9 booster:

  • 111 – total launches
  • 71 – total landings
  • 54 – reflown rockets

Stats for the Falcon Heavy, which is a superheavy booster configured with three Falcon 9 boosters side-by-side:

  • 3 –total launches
  • 7 – total landings
  • 4 – reflown rockets

OneWeb

Photo Credits: Roscosmos, Space Center Vostochny, TsENKI. Also courtesy of OneWeb.

Constellation under construction by OneWeb will eventually have 650 satellites in orbit.

After the 12/18/20 launch they had 110 satellites in orbit. Another 36 on 3/24/21 gives them a total of 146 in orbit. Another launch is planned for April.

The March launch was their fifth, with three of those in 2020. Hitting that target of 650 will require another 14 launches. Cool – 5 up, 14 to go.

Financing will be a challenge.

The company went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, emerging with new owners. Announced plan is they need another $2.5 billion to finish the constellation and construct the ground-based infrastructure. Total cost is reported to be somewhere between $5.5 billion up to $7 billion. 

New CEO says half of the additional funds will come from two biggest owners of the company and the rest from other fundraising.

For more information:

OneWeb has a fabulous video explaining how their satellite system will work:

link: https://youtu.be/8_kytEDxC0A

OneWeb is building their own satellites. Each one is the size of a washing machine.  As a satellite passes overhead, it will cover an area the size of Alaska before passing the coverage to the next satellite in line.

Another cool pic of liftoff of 36 OneWeb satellites on an Arianespace booster launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome:

Photo Credits: Roscosmos, Space Center Vostochny, TsENKI. Also courtesy of OneWeb.

Amazon and Telstar

There are several other companies planning their own constellation of satellites to provide Internet connectivity anywhere on the planet.

Amazon and Telstar have plans but don’t have anything in orbit yet.

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