Falcon 9 launches first sixty satellites in SpaceX Starlink constellation…but four have faults

by | May 24, 2019 | Launches, Satellites, Seradata News, SpaceX, Technology

SpaceX has launched the first 60 satellites in its Starlink low Earth orbit constellation of communications satellites aimed at providing high bandwidth with low latency to mobile users on Earth.

The launch, which had been delayed by over a week by upper level winds and the need to import a software upgrade onto the satellites, finally went ahead on a Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral at 0230 GMT on 24 May 2019.

The first deployment for the constellation will eventually see 1,600 spacecraft placed into a single orbit and 32 orbital planes. Later deployments will see the total number of spacecraft raised to 4,425 in four separate orbits. The “train” of satellites has been observed on Earth. Its brightness has upset astronomers who have said this could seriously affect their work, especially if the full constellation of Starlink satellites is deployed.

Update on 14 June 2019:  While Space X announced that all the satellites were in contact with ground control, according to analysis of orbital raising manoeuvres four satellites appeared to have been behaving differently from the otherst.  SpaceX later confirmed that while all had got their solar arrays deployed and four did have anomalies.  It now appears that one of these is in the process of being deorbited.

The Starlink “train” of released satellites was visible from Earth – as imaged passing by. Courtesy: Marco Langbroek/Vimeo

The satellites use Krypton propellant Hall-Effect electric thrusters and a single solar array. This first batch lacks the intersatellite communications links that later satellites will have.

Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Approximately one hour and two minutes after lift-off, the Starlink satellites were deployed at an altitude of 440km in low Earth orbit. They then used on-board propulsion to reach an operational altitude of 550 km.

This was the third launch of Falcon 9’s first stage. It was previously used on the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite launch in September 2018 and the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019.

Starlink satellites in their dispensers before launch. Courtesy: SpaceX

Comment by David Todd: Because the Starlink satellites of this first batch are classed as “test satellites”, SpaceX emphasises that any anomalies will not be regarded as “failures” but as “areas to learn from”. Sounds a like a bit of expectation management to this cynical old space writer.

Still from animation showing deployment of Starlink spacecraft’s solar array. Courtesy: SpaceX


About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned Seradata database. Trusted by over 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, Seradata is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to https://www.seradata.com/product/

Related Articles

Falcon 9 makes two launches on 17 March: for Starlink Group 2-8 and SES-18 and SES-19 respectively…but recently launched Starlink Group 6-1 appears to be sinking

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg, California, USA at 1926 GMT on 17 March 2023. The vehicle was Read more

Chinese Long March 3B/E launches earth observation satellite into orbit

China successfully launched a Chinese Long March 3B/E rocket carrying the a new geostationary Earth observation satellite, Gaofen-13 02. The Read more

Astranis gets two GEO sat order from Mexico’s Apco Networks

The spacecraft manufacturer Astranis received a construction order from the Mexican telecommunications firm Apco Networks for a pair of small Read more

Rocket Lab successfully deploys two Capella Space radar satellites after Electron launch

Rocket Lab successfully launched its Electron rocket and deployed two Capella Space radar imaging satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO). Read more

NASA uses CLPS programme to contract lunar ride for Firefly’s Blue Ghost 2 lunar lander and ESA’s Lunar Pathfinder comms relay spacecraft

Firefly Aerospace has been awarded a second CLPS transportation order to the Moon, this time for the Blue Ghost 2 Read more

SATELLITE 2023: Many different paths towards space sustainability, all it takes is time and money

During the last session of the SATELLITE 2023 conference in Washington DC was the Space Sustainability Services panel. This saw Read more

SATELLITE 2023: Arianespace prefers to look further into the future as 2023 is set to see low number of its launches

At the Launcher Roundtable at SATELLITE 2023 Arianespace CEO, Stéphane Israël, talked about his company's activities for the coming years.  Read more

NASA unveils new spacesuits for Artemis astronauts moon landing

A new style, for a new space era - that's the message NASA wants to send with the unveiling of Read more