The 60 satellites SpaceX is set to launch Wednesday night, beginning the build-out of a broadband network of orbiting spacecraft that could eventually number thousands, are based on a new flat-panel design, with krypton-fueled plasma thrusters, high-power antennas, and a capability to autonomously steer away from other objects in space.
SpaceX ground teams at Cape Canaveral transferred a Falcon 9 rocket to launch pad 40 and rotated the booster vertical Monday for a preflight hold-down firing, ahead of a liftoff scheduled for Wednesday night carrying 60 satellites into orbit for the company’s planned Starlink broadband constellation.
The Federal Communications Commission has granted a request by SpaceX to begin launching spacecraft for the company’s Starlink broadband network to a lower orbit than originally planned, overruling protests by competitors and clearing a major regulatory hurdle before the launch of the first batch of Internet satellites from Cape Canaveral in May.
The launch of a Soyuz rocket from French Guiana with four more satellites Thursday to join SES’s O3b broadband network will help satisfy growing bandwidth demands in Latin America, Africa and the Pacific islands until the deployment of a new generation of upgraded spacecraft in 2021, SES officials said.
Russian ground crews working in starkly different environments on the barren steppes of Kazakhstan and in the lush jungles of South America are readying a pair of Soyuz rockets for two launches Thursday, one to resupply the International Space Station, and another to broaden the capacity of SES’s O3b Internet network.