SpaceX next launch: Elon Musk will launch 60 more Starlink satellites next week
The controversial SpaceX Starlink constellation will grow to nearly 500 satellites next week, with 422 satellites in orbit right now. Elon Musk, 48, aims to grow his Starlink constellation to 12,000 or more satellites for global coverage. Towards this goal, the tech mogul is launching 60 new satellites each month.
The next Starlink launch is pencilled-in to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 7.
Weather permitting, the launch will deliver the seventh operational batch of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO).
The last batch was delivered on a Falcon 9 rocket on April 23, and marked the 84th flight of SpaceX’s iconic Falcon 9 rocket.
On the day of the launch, Mr Musk teased on Twitter he will have enough Starlink satellites in three months to beta test his internet service.
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He tweeted: “Private beta begins in ~three months, public beta in #six months, starting high latitudes.”
The Starlink project aims to deliver high-speed internet to every corner of the globe, including those parts of the world where broadband infrastructure does not exist.
By maintaining a constellation of 12,000 satellites in LEO, Mr Musk hopes to “deploy the world’s most advanced broadband internet system”.
But the plans have so far been met with a great deal of mixed emotions.
While many are excited at the possibility of having high-speed in remote areas, astronomers, in particular, are worried about nighttime pollution caused by the reflective satellites.
Astronomers rely on pristine skies to make observations of distant celestial objects.
We are taking some key steps to reduce satellite brightness
Elon Musk, SpaceX
There is also some concern a large Starlink constellation could block hazardous asteroids and comets from sight.
One person tweeted: “Haven’t seen those myself but totally understand that feelings run so deep.
“The night sky is something very archaic, deeply rooted in human culture, in myths, stories, poetry… Many also feel sad about general light pollution.
“Plus Starlink looks much more disturbing than ISS.”
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Another person said: “Last night, I saw Starlink trails. That hurted my heart so much to see that no one cares about preserving the beauty of night sky for next generations.
“It’s already gone due to (fortunately reversible) light pollution. Be better than that @elonmusk, please.”
But the concerns have not gone unnoticed and Mr Musk has vowed to address the problem.
Next week’s Starlink launch is expected to carry a potential solution to the problem, dubbed VisorSat.
VisorSat will act a sunshade of sorts, deploying flaps or fins on each Starlink to reduce the amount of sunlight reflecting from their shiny surfaces.
On April 22 Mr Musk tweeted: “It’s made of a special dark foam that’s extremely radio transparent, so as not to affect the phased array antennas. Looks a lot like a car sun visor.”
The Starlink satellites will also be raised to higher orbits over time, potentially reducing their impact at night.
The satellites are also expected to stay between three to four years in orbit before being deorbited and replaced.
The SpaceX chief engineer also tweeted: “We are taking some key steps to reduce satellite brightness btw.
“Should be much less noticeable during orbit raise by changing solar panel angle and all sats get sunshades starting with launch nine.”
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