SpaceX Was Poised to Launch 60 Starlink Satellites This Week, But…

Update 2019-05-20:

The new launch date has been set for Thursday, May 23, 2019, from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch window will open as previously at 10:30 p.m. and will stay open for 1.5 hours until midnight EDT.

2019/05/23 19:30:00

This week should have been in the history books as the launch of SpaceX’s first set of 60 Starlink satellites. Unfortunately, there were some unforeseen issues and SpaceX had to scrub the launch twice during this weeks launch window and backup launch window.

A Falcon 9 Block 5 Variant was set to launch the 60 Starlink satellites into earth’s orbit on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. The launch window opened at 22:30 EDT and was open for 1.5 hours until midnight.

The booster for this launch was flight proven and had previously flown in support of the Telstar 18 VANTAGE and Iridium-8 missions.

Falcon 9 on SLC-40 supporting the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission

The launch of 5 dozens of tiny cube satellites at once, will be the heaviest launch in SpaceX’s history. No SpaceX rocket has ever lifted 18,5 tons into space. Not even the last two Falcon Heavy launches.

Starlink

With Starlink, SpaceX tries to create a low-cost, high-performance and low-latency satellite network covering the whole globe. The whole network of Starlink satellites would consist of nearly 12,000 satellites. However, it doesn’t need that many satellites to get the network online and launching 60 satellites at once is a huge step forward.

According to Elon Musk, initial Starlink service could be up and running in about a year, with global service a few months later. For the Starlink network to be profitable for SpaceX, it would take about 1000 satellites.

Everything depends on the first launch and how things go from here. SpaceX is trying a new system to deploy the 60 satellites. To save weight and space, SpaceX got rid of a dispenser and flat-packed them into the payload fairing.

Starlink Launch Attempts 1 & 2

After a successful static fire test, the initial launch window was set for Wednesday, May 15, 2019, at 22:30 EDT. Due to excess upper-level winds, the launch got scrubbed for that day and postponed for the backup launch window on Thursday, May 16, 2019, with the same timeframe as the original launch window.

Unfortunately, also the second attempt to launch the first batch of Starlink satellites got scrubbed. According to an official SpaceX statement they wanted to triple check everything and do software updates on the satellites. Maybe it was good that the launch had to be scrubbed during the first attempt on Wednesday, as potential faulty satellites could have been launched into space.

Rumors have it that the next launch attempt will be on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. This date is not officially confirmed but would be within the hinted “week”. As of right now, the official launch date is not disclosed yet.

For me, these were two long days as I was driving back and forward to Cape Canaveral from Miami and West Palm Beach. As I still had to work the whole week, this meant for me getting up at 6 a.m. every day even tho I just got back late from the Cape. Thanks to the SpaceX and CCAFS team to provide these great opportunities to get a glimpse of the rocket on the launch pad and be able to watch the launch up close. I really hope that SpaceX will succeed with their plan and be able to get Starlink up and running.

Who knows, maybe a future technology breakthrough will allow Starlink being used in cellphones rather than flat and pizza-sized antennas aka end-user terminals. Starlink alone will disrupt the internet market, let alone being able to use it eventually in cellphones.

More photos of the launch...

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