Fresh off the success of its June 13, 2020 launch success, SpaceX plans to launch a third batch of its Starlink communications satellites this month. It has also opened the Starlink website for taking prospective customer information as it moves to trials later this year.
SpaceX is targeting June 23 at 5:58 PM EDT for the tenth launch of Starlink satellites, with the launch to take place from pad LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. It marks the first use of the pad since the successful launch of the company’s first humans into space onboard a Crew Dragon on May 31, 2020, representing a rapid turnaround for pad operations.
The launch will carry 60 Starlink satellites into orbit along with two BlackSky imaging satellites sharing the ride. If successful, SpaceX will have a total of around nearly 600 Starlink communications satellites in orbit, close to the 600 to 800 number company officials have citied to offer broadband services to Canada and the Northern United States. It will also be the second Starlink flight offering rideshare service, with the June 13 flight putting three Planet Skysat high-resolution imaging satellites into orbit.
Earlier in the year, SpaceX said it would try to launch Starlink satellites at least twice a month through the end of the year and into 2021 as it works to build an initial constellation of over 1400 satellites to provide global broadband coverage. The company has started taking email addresses, zip/postal code, and country information to build customer prospect lists.
One of the company’s investors said he had seen the “UFO on a stick” user terminal hardware at SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles, but neither SpaceX, CEO Elon Musk, or any third-party has released pictures or illustrations of the equipment in the field or a lab setting, suggesting there is still work being done before large quantities are available for shipment to initial in-house and/or beta testers.
Details on how the overall Starlink network will work are also sparse, with suggestions by Musk and third-parties that “ground bounce” and/or “barge bounce” relays will be necessary to connect users not within the footprint of a traditional ground station and an overhead satellite. Such bounces will add latency to network connections and it isn’t clear what the best case or worst case scenario would be for a user in Canada or out in the ocean. Presumably, SpaceX’s Starlink division will be providing more details as initial user tests are completed.