UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — The Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched 60 Starlink satellite communications systems into orbit. What was Elon Musk able to surprise at the launch of this project and what could prevent him?
The Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched into orbit the first 60 satellites of the Starlink space communications system. In total, SpaceX has permission to put 12,000 satellites into orbit, which is six times more than the total number of vehicles currently on it.
Having placed so many satellites in low Earth orbit, Musk expects to provide Internet coverage that can compete with wired access in speed and price. Why has nobody done this before him?
The more devices you need to withdraw, the more launches are required. Thanks to the design tricks, Mask managed to place 60 satellites in one launch vehicle – he posted their photo on Twitter on May 11.
Judging from the photograph, he decided on an unusual thin form of satellites — about 0.2 meters wide, based on the length of the fairing, inside which they were shot — 13 meters, according to the SpaceX website . The weight of each satellite is 227 kg.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 12, 2019
Satellites will operate at an altitude of 550 km. In such an orbit, a low signal delay is ensured. Each of the spacecraft provides a speed of about 10 gigabit / s – faster than the modern mobile Internet. Elon Musk promises that 60 satellites will create a space network with a total bandwidth of 1 terabit/s.
For the minimum coverage, 360 more satellites will be needed , and for the acceptable – 720 devices. Each satellite has its own ion engine, which allows it to work in orbit for 3-5 years. Now SpaceX makes 20-30 launches per year and is very popular.
Therefore, the deployment of the entire group of 12,000 vehicles is expected no earlier than 2027.
Alan Guliyev, head of launch projects for Innovative Solutions In Space (designs nano-satellites), noted that even miniature satellites weighing 5 kg can potentially keep in touch, however Starlink still has to prove the declared characteristics.
After work is completed, spacecraft will lose speed, decrease and burn in dense layers of the atmosphere. So they will not interfere with the models working in space. Due to the regular descent into the atmosphere of SpaceX satellites will have to constantly replenish the grouping. The cost of it can reach $ 30-50 billion per year, according to calculations Mask.
Starlink's flat-panel design allows for a dense launch stack to take full advantage of Falcon 9’s launch capabilities pic.twitter.com/ntnJInEfno
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 24, 2019
The founder and president of momentum.space, Mikhail Kokorich, explains that modern technologies make it possible to supply even 227 kg of vehicles and engines with solar batteries (usually communication satellites are several times heavier).
The size determines how many clients can simultaneously support the satellite. But for Starlink, support for multiple users will be provided by the record number of satellites in the constellation.
“The main driver for the cost of such projects is the launch cost,” estimates SpaceX Kokorich costs. He predicts that, given the scale of production that SpaceX plans (from 720 to 12,000 satellites), the cost of communication satellites will be from $ 500,000 to $ 1 million, that is, SpaceX’s entire group will cost about $ 1 billion.
The cost of space launches at SpaceX is the company’s “secret weapon”, according to Kokorich.
The SpaceX website states that the cost of launching satellites into orbit using a Falcon 9 rocket is $ 62 million, but the head of Momentus.space assumes that their cost price is $ 20-30 million. $ 2-3 billion is 10 times cheaper than, for example, for the OneWeb project, Kokorich explains.
These calculations are lower than the ones mentioned above by Elon Musk, since they were made at cost and calculated on the initial constellation of 1000–2000 satellites, and not 12,000 vehicles. In addition, Kokorich estimated at cost, and Musk never discloses it.
Risks for the space Internet
Kokorich considers the main issue to Starlink is the size of the market. After all, most people live in large cities, where there is a good Internet, and soon there will be a fast 5G cellular connection.
However, he notes that in the US the market is bigger, since the population is distributed more evenly, there may be far enough farms where it is unprofitable to draw fiber and where it will be necessary by the way the Internet satellite Satellite Mask.
“The project will be very popular, they in fact create a new market for themselves,” – said Gubiev. He believes that soon we will see an explosive growth in the consumption of the Internet space, especially in places that are not covered by the mobile Internet zone.
The potential use of satellite internet is the internet of things. In case of successful deployment of Starlink, passenger ships, airplanes and even cars will be provided with fast network connectivity (this may be important for autopilot vehicles of the same Tesla).
They will limit satellite Starlink antenna capabilities – they will be dozens of centimeters in size, therefore they will require either ground stations, or will be placed in homes and cars, but not in mobile devices.
One of the competitors Starlink Gubiyev sees another project of low-orbit project – OneWeb. Its first satellites were launched in February 2018. However, he considers Starlink to be more promising: his satellites weigh almost 20% more than the OneWeb, but they give almost twice the speed of communication. Kokorich agrees that OneWeb in this situation looks like an outsider: due to the fact that its vehicles are being output by Russian Soyuz missiles, the launch cost is higher – about $ 60 million.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.
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