Dozens of Modified SpaceX Starlink Satellites Could Be Sent Around Space

Elon Musk has tweeted about sending dozens of modified Starlink satellites sent throughout the solar system. They would have ion drives with 1600 ISP. The mission would be sent from an expendable version of the Super Heavy Starship. The Starship would have an upper stage with three Vacuum Raptor engines.

Starships that are refueled in orbit could have a lot of Delta-V. Having four stages would also enable very fast trips. The fourth stage would be the ion drives of the modified Starlink satellites.

SOURCES – Elon Musk and Everyday astronaut on twitter. ProjectRho orbit tables

Written By Brian Wang,

19 thoughts on “Dozens of Modified SpaceX Starlink Satellites Could Be Sent Around Space”

  1. I wish they would focus on making a new space station.
    The one we have now is a tinker toy and cost 100 billion dollars.
    With the new rockets, what could 100 billion buy the world?
    On top of that they could be made to be movable. They could be used to set up around a planet to establish a colony.
    Or if we went to get really wild, designed to land on a planet for an instant colony.
    But the engineering for that would be tough…..

  2. RTGs have another disadvantage: once installed, they can’t be shut down. And they produce a lot of heat.

    The RTGs of the Curiosity rover produced about 2 kilowatts of heat continuously vs 110 watts of electricity produced.

    Which is manageable with some active and passive cooling for a single probe, meant to go to a cold place, but it won’t be so manageable if you pack tens of sats in a single fairing.

  3. I expect to see a lot of one-off missions to periodically deploy orbital logistics and infrastructure around bodies of interest across the Solar System (sats also get old and break down, needing replacement).

    Even when SH/SS achieves full reusability, they will need a expendable carrier for missions where the return trip isn’t worth the wait or throwing a complex reusable ship at it. For example, exploration and prospecting missions on the outer planets.

    And this could be the way this happens until we develop industrial capabilities outside of Earth.

  4. The big news here is that Musk said expendable “Starship”. I think the point of this is not to get folks thinking about Starlink for this but to suggest that there are still some missions that a very lightweight expendable aero-shell with 3 Raptors/MOX as an upper stage might be the most cost effective. If fact I expect that the first uses of the SpaceX Super Heavy booster will be to put this expendable “Starship” to LEO for Starlink in 2023 to beat the FCC deployment deadline. It is also a lower cost way to validate that Super Heavy first stage before putting a very expensive re-entry capable true Starship upper stage. Eventually the highly reusable Starship cargo/fuel will replace the expendable “Starship” except for the type of situations described above.

  5. Anyone knows how much weight and power of a typical probe is allocated to long range communication?
    If that weight could be eliminated, there could be either more probes, faster probes, more sensors, more fuel, less cost and whatnot.

  6. Uh…that can be said about any satellite system.

    This is just Musk Fluffing, NBF-style.

  7. don’t waste resources to return much to the Earth just yet.
    Everything we need is out there ,except humans.
    ps: always install return to launch point program so they know how to come home for repairs ect. updateable.
    ultimately like in the star wars movie prospector drones will rome all over searching for everything,they will need interchangeable mission purposed systems and attachments for sample return,refueling ect.

  8. I could see that. Just put the relay in a Lagrange point and give it some solar panels. If it is to far out an RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator) would be needed.

  9. I could see doing that; Several good communications satellites around each of the planets.

  10. It isn’t so much that Jupiter itself is radioactive. Less so than the rocky planets, really.

    It’s just that it has this huge magnetic field to concentrate radiation from the solar wind. Like Earth’s Van Allen belts, only on steroids.

  11. Much as I like nuclear… In principle there’s no obstacle to operating in trans-Jovian space with solar, if you have a deployable thin film concentrating mirror to boost the light entering the solar panels.

    OTOH, out in the Kuiper belt anything but nuclear is crazy.

  12. Part of what’s going on here is that, with the switch to stainless steel construction, design changes and one-offs are now almost trivial. Not like with carbon composites. So, yes, you can now consider stripped down upper stages for special missions.

  13. Or start by using them as communication devices as intended. Put a bunch of them from Mars to Jupiter and use as communication relay stations. The next wave of exploring probes can be much simpler because the communication problem is offloaded.

  14. Totally agree on the need for an cheap common buss for deep space probes.
    However starlink would need some radical re-designs, first is obviously instruments.
    You also want an high power but lower bandwidth antenna and transmitter.
    More solar cells for the belt.
    Now outside the belt solar power can not power an ion engine and rtg give little power. This is not an serious issue as you can launch heavy stuff but it require an monoprop setup.

    Last using an 40 ton dry weight stage to launch a couple of tons of probes does not make much sense then you could make an very light weight 100 ton 3rd + 4rd stage for braking and drop from an starship, you could even launch the 3rd stage empty and fuel it up to 3-400 ton before releasing, or fuel up the starship to and have that do an 3 km/s burn before dropping 3rd stage.

  15. Callisto orbits outside Jupiter’s radiation belts, that’ll be the staging area when humans eventually move into the Jovian System.

  16. Could you really fly a starship that close to Jupiter with people in it? I heard Jupiter is radioactive as hell…given all the turbulence and being almost a brown drawf star that wasn’t quite big enough to ignite…

  17. The beauty of this is it has the same basic communications system (laser) and size Planetary Resources concept vehicles. His headquarters for Starlink is roughly in the same area, and PR is basically gone at this point. I’m sure the high powered radio communicators system for Starlink could provide lots of power for an instrument platform in lower light conditions. And there is an insane number of NEOs that could be explored like this. Starship is big enough to freaking grab one, but it wouldn’t have the power to bring it back. They could work with NASA to fly out to one and attach an Ion engine similar to the ARM mission after exploring it. Or they could make a crewed and a robotic Starship fly formation and have the robotic one contain an asteroid mining facility. After they got the hang of it, they could just send the robot and leave the crew home. But having a crew on site for tech support doesn’t hurt for early missions.
    I guess I know what I’m writing another presentation on for the next Mars Society conference.

  18. Great. It has been apparent for a while that E. Musk is trying to develop Starlink into a multi-purpose satellite platform for communications, positioning and exploration, produced in series and therefore, much cheaper than any other before. Starship could haul these in bunches, deploying probably tens of them at once on a desired target across the Solar System.

    Albeit anything going beyond the asteroid belt would require nuclear power sources for power, given the increasingly poor performance of solar panels beyond the belt.

    Juno manages with solar panels, but they are huge.

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