SpaceX finally kicked off its Starlink 11 mission on 3rd September at 6:16 pm IST. This was the launch of the 12th batch of the Starlink satellites atop the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. On completion, the Starlink project is expected to generate billions of dollars of revenue for the company.
SpaceX usually sends about 60 payloads per launch. In some missions, it includes one or two satellites from other companies. In this launch, however, all the 60 satellites were Starlink and these satellites were deployed 550 km in the low Earth orbit (LEO).
Starlink And It’s Value To SpaceX
The Starlink mega constellation is being built by SpaceX to provide internet services on Earth. SpaceX especially aims to deliver high-speed, low-latency internet connectivity in areas where ground-based internet service is unavailable, costly or simply unreliable.
As of now, the Starlink mission is in an employee beta phase. However, it is expected that the company will initiate the public beta in less than six months. A few minutes before the launch, SpaceX tweeted:
SpaceX has already managed to loft about 600 Starlink satellites into the operational orbits. The company will deploy at least 12,000 satellites in the broadband constellation. However, SpaceX has also received permission to launch 30,000 more Starlink satellites in addition to the aforementioned satellites. Given the current launch rate of the Starlink satellites, it is estimated that global coverage will be no farther than mid-2021.
More importantly, the company has designed a reusable launch system technology to cut down on expenses. From reusing the first stage to reusing fairings, SpaceX has come a long way in implementing full and rapid reusability of space launch vehicles.
Now, how important is this venture to SpaceX? Forbes stated that this satellite-based venture could generate as much as $30 to $50 billion by 2025. Notably, the market value for high-speed internet services is very large. Perhaps Starlink could leverage this and turn out to be very profitable by providing the services worldwide at much affordable prices compared to cable and fiber providers. Moreover, the profit is expected to finance the company’s Starship program as well as Mars Base Alpha.
The liftoff took place from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), Kennedy Space Centre, Florida. At T+ 00:01:12 post lift off, the Falcon 9 rocket entered the region of Max Q, also known as the region of maximum aerodynamic pressure. The main engine cut off or MECO occurred at T+ 00:02:36, followed by the first and second stage separation. At T+ 00:03:13, the fairing halves separated successfully in order to expose the satellites to space. The company will attempt to recover the rocket payload fairings back on Earth with the help of the marine vessels, Go Ms. Tree and Go Ms. Chief.
At T+ 00:06:50, the stage 1 entry burn initiated for it to slow down while nearing the Earth. About one and a half minutes later, the stage 1 landing burn was initiated, followed by a spectacular landing of the core stage on an autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS), ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ in the Atlantic Ocean. The booster used in this particular mission was B1060, and it marked its second landing to date. Here is a visual confirmation of the landing:
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship pic.twitter.com/vgB0dnTWaP
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 3, 2020
The second engine cut off or SECO took place around 9 minutes after the launch. Just minutes later, all the 60 Starlink satellites were successfully deployed into the low earth orbit.
This mission marked the ninety third flight of the Falcon 9 rocket and the forty second re-flight of a booster.
Previously, the Starlink mission was scuttled twice due to iffy weather conditions. The mission was supposed to take off on 30th August initially but was then postponed to 1st September. However, the company further pushed the launch date to 3rd September for additional reviews. Today, however, the weather was 80% go for the launch.
Earlier this week, SpaceX launched an Earth-observation satellite, SAOCOM-1B, along with two other small satellites. SpaceX has also scheduled the debut hop of Starship SN6 for somewhere between 6:30 pm IST, Thursday to 6:30 am IST, Friday.
In case you missed today’s launch, you can watch it here.