SpaceX Plans 24 Starlink Launches in 2020

SpaceX hopes to launch 24 Starlink missions in 2020 as the company builds out a broadband megaconstellation that could ultimately number close to 12,000 satellites according to SpaceX’s Gwynne Shotwell. If Falcon 9’s are used for the launches this would be 1440 Starlink satellites. There are four launches planned in 2019. There would be a total of 1680 Starlink satellites if all of them worked and they were launched 60 at a time.

SpaceX’s Starlink launch cadence will likely average “two a month,” in addition to customer launches, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, said at the World Satellite Business Week conference here.

Shotwell estimated SpaceX will do seven to eight more missions this year, including Starlink. SpaceX has flown 10 rockets this year — eight Falcon 9s and two Falcon Heavies. Shotwell didn’t say how many total launches SpaceX plans in 2020, only that it is “much higher” than this year’s projected max of 18.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said consistent partial coverage would be achieved with 400 Starlink satellites, and they should be economically viable at 1,000 Starlink satellites.

SOURCES- SpaceX, Space News, Twitter
Written By Brian Wang.

24 thoughts on “SpaceX Plans 24 Starlink Launches in 2020”

  1. I thought LEO wasn’t a problem. There is still enough drag there to bring down anything not actively maintained. Especially any smaller debris and fragments. It’s MEO that could be dangerous for many years.

  2. A fair summary is that this is a non-problem as long as there’s a real traffic control system, and nobody is either stupid or malicious. Just like air traffic control, but with vacuum.

  3. Oh, hardly forever. Even in the worst Kessler syndrome scenario, you’d still be able to launch *through* LEO to geosynch with high confidence; Satellite lifetimes in lower orbits would just be fairly low.

    But we really do need to put in place an active junk removal system, especially if satellites in LEO are going to become common.

  4. Ohhhhhh… Now I feel stupid. I always assumed that it was just a particularly prototype-y prototype. Makes perfect sense now.

  5. The first phase of Starlink satellites are for 550km low earth orbit altitude. These are low enough that they can de-orbit naturally in a decade if they become non-functional. They will not be an eternal orbital threat.

  6. Out of the 60 satellites launched into low earth orbit on the first Starlink v0.9 mission, 3 had failed. The remaining 57 satellites are functional, with 2 more functional satellites being intentionally de-orbited to test out the deorbiting procedure. The remaining 55 functional satellites raised their altitude with on-board thrusters to their intended 550km orbits.

    So 5 satellites are being deorbited, the 3 dead satellites passively (natural orbital decay), and the 2 de-orbit-test satellites actively using their onboard thrusters.

  7. Let’s use 450 km as an example, and put 20 km of guard altitude both up and down. That’s:

    (4/3)*pi*(6841^3 – 6801^3) = 24.4 billion cubic kilometers of space. Even if you have 100,000 satellites at that altitude, that’s 234,000 km^3 per bird.

    Things can get dicey if you’ve got birds in SSO, where everything has to be at exactly the same altitude, and birds with different RAANs have their orbits come close to crossing at the poles, but even that’s an eminently manageable problem.

    You definitely want to be able to track everything, even very small things, but that’s not much more difficult than what the air traffic control system does every day. If you want to lose sleep over something that’s likely to be a real problem, worry about hundreds of thousands of drones flown by idiots in the TCAs around major airports.

  8. There are actually two Starlink prototype satellites in that image. One on the right side of the cylindrical dispenser and one on the left. (Tintin 1 and Tintin 2). Both satellites were launched into orbit as a rideshare with the Hisdesat Paz satellite for the Spanish Government onboard Block-3 Falcon 9 booster no. B1038 from Vandenberg (SLC-4E) on February 22 2018. All 3 satellites on the Paz mission were successfully deployed.

  9. Lets hope we never have a chain reaction of collisions with the Starlink satellites since we would be stuck on this planet forever.

  10. OTOH, the chance of collision is increased due to the satellites moving so much faster that they pass through a much, much larger volume in any given amount of time.

    Eventually it’s going to require some formal coordination to avoid Kessler syndrome. And active efforts at junk removal, too!

  11. Look at it this way – right now there are more than 50,000 commercial ships on the ocean. Yet no one would say the sea is crowded. And then factor in that these satellites will be at multiple orbit levels, which isn’t really on option for merchant ships.

  12. Some were intentional, others failed for various reasons. SpaceX deliberately deorbited some to study characteristics as they entered the Earth’s atmosphere, and/or time to deorbit failed satellites. Other failures haven’t been released yet, but I’m sure SpaceX used that info to upgrade gen 2 satellites. The best estimate is that the lifespan of one Starlink satellite is around 5-7 years, so it will be a constant renewal of the constellation in space.

  13. Not yet, so far as I know. Might be worth it to SpaceX to recover at least one of them for examination. Good PR, too: “We clean up our trash.”

  14. Early prototype, I gather. They had to redesign it to reduce the potential for pieces reaching the ground intact and hitting somebody, since they’re going to eventually be deorbiting thousands of these a year..

    The new design is a flat-pack that unfolds after being dispensed.

  15. “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

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