SpaceX Starlink October 7, 2020 launch (Source: SpaceX)

SpaceX puts more Starlink broadband satellites into orbit, positions for public beta

This week SpaceX conducted its twelfth launch of production Starlink broadband satellites.  The company has now deployed over 700 v1.0 productions satellites into orbit as the company moves out of private beta tests into a more public beta by the end of the year.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch took place on October 6, 2020 at 7:29 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with the first stage successfully recovered downrange on a drone ship after launch; it had previously flown on the Crew Dragon’s first astronaut flight to the International Space Station and the ANASIS-II mission. Both faring halves were also recovered for reuse.

Once the current batch of 60 satellites moves from their initial deployment orbits into their targeted positions, SpaceX Starlink will “be able to roll out a fairly wide public beta” in the northern United States and “hopefully” southern Canada, according to an October tweet by SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. Other areas of the world will be able to start testing when regulatory approval is granted by the respective countries Starlink satellites fly over; presumably why Canada is labeled “hopefully.”

It will take “several more” Starlink launches before there’s “good connectivity” as far as south Texas, where SpaceX has its Starship construction and launch facilities, according to Musk, with launches expected to take place at a pace of one or two per month.

Information continues to emerge from the private beta, with the Washington Emergency Management agency tweeting that it is “Happy” to have the support of Starlink broadband service as residents rebuild the town of Malden, WA that was overcome by wildfires in early September.  U.S. Air Force acquisition chief William Roper said what he’s seen from Starlink has been “impressive and positive,’ according to an report. The Starlink “live-fire” test connected to a variety of air and ground assets, including the Boeing KC-135 tanker.

Other Starlink events over the last few weeks include performance of up to 100 Mbps connectivity along with lower latency than 4G systems and an in-orbit demonstration connecting two satellites using laser links to transfer hundreds of gigabits of data.  Initial descriptions of Starlink including the incorporation of lasers for interconnection among satellites to avoid having to route data through ground stations, thereby adding latency.

SpaceX Starlink has over 700,000 email addresses of people who have signed up through the company’s website to signal interest in – not commitment to buying – its satellite broadband service.  The company told the FCC it is producing over 120 satellites per month and “thousands” of consumer end-terminals per month.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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