This week SpaceX and OneWeb added more satellites to their respective broadband constellations. By some accounts, SpaceX has successfully completed its first full “shell” or tier of broadband satellites while OneWeb continues to add more with the goal of providing northern latitude coverage by the end of the year.
The SpaceX Starlink flight took place on May 26, 2021 at 2::59 PM EDT from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base SLC-40. It marked 100 successful launches of the Falcon 9 vehicle, with 13 of SpaceX’s 16 Falcon 9 flights this year dedicated to Starlink launches. The next four Falcon 9 launches scheduled to take place in June will include a NASA supply mission to the International Space Station using a SpaceX Cargo Dragon, a SiriusXM digital radio satellite, a GPS satellite for U.S. Space Force and the Transporter-2 rideshare mission.
SpaceX plans to conduct a series of polar launches this summer from Vandenberg Space Force Base to extend and enhance coverage for the northern latitudes, an area of interest for numerous countries as global warming increases maritime shipping and military activities in the region. The Starlink broadband service is currently in beta throughout the world and is expected to shift to production by the end of the year after the company fine-tunes it to get ride of network drops and outages. Beta users report that they receive speeds of up to 300 Mbps or more downlink speed and 40 Mbps or higher uplink speeds, but also see outages and drops in service due to gaps in satellite coverage and various network glitches.
Movement of Starlink out of beta would coincide with the launch of an enterprise sales effort with Google Cloud expected to take place later this year. SpaceX plans to place ground stations next to some Google data centers, providing one-hop connectivity between the satellite broadband network and Google computing resources.
OneWeb’s seventh launch took place on May 28, 2021 at 1:30 PM EDT from Vostochny Space Center in Russia. The Arianespace-contracted flight was delayed from May 27 due to an electrical equipment issue onboard the Russian Soyuz launch. Today’s flight successfully added 36 broadband satellites to OneWeb’s constellation and making it the fourth launch of five towards providing broadband service to the northern latitudes later this year.
The next OneWeb launch is scheduled for July 1, with launches taking place monthly through the end of next year. Northern latitude service is expected to be available shortly after the July launch with global broadband coverage expected in 2022 as the company fills out its 648 satellite constellation.