SpaceX Launches 1st New Generation Starlink ‘V2 Mini’ Satellites To Orbit
SpaceX launched the first of a new generation of Starlink internet satellites into orbit during a beautiful sunset liftoff on the evening of February 27.
“Twenty-one of SpaceX’s new Starlink “V2 mini” satellites lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 6:13 pm EST (2313 GMT) Monday from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. That was about five hours later than originally planned, due to “a space weather concern,” according to a SpaceX Twitter update.
According to SpaceX representatives, the Falcon 9’s first stage successfully returned to Earth as intended 8.5 minutes after liftoff, and landed flawlessly on the SpaceX droneship ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’, which was positioned in the Atlantic Ocean near the Florida coast. This particular booster had previously been used and landed twice before, making this its third successful liftoff and landing, reported Space News.
The rocket’s upper stage continued powering its way to low Earth orbit, ultimately deploying the 21 Starlink satellites as planned 64.5 minutes after liftoff.
SpaceX has designed the 21 V2 mini Starlink satellites as a test set that can be accommodated on the Falcon 9, the company’s reliable workhorse rocket. The full-size Starlink V2 spacecraft, which are larger and more advanced than the previous versions, will be launched in groups using SpaceX’s Starship Mars rocket, which is not yet operational.
First Starlink v2 satellites reach orbit pic.twitter.com/0l08568mJ9
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 28, 2023
Elon Musk, the CEO and founder of SpaceX, has stated that each V2 spacecraft will weigh 1.25 tons (1,130 kilograms) and possess the capability to provide service directly to cellphones. SpaceX has announced its intention to partner with T-Mobile to provide this service by 2023. Although smaller than the full-size Starlink V2, the V2 mini satellites are still larger and more capable than the other Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX so far.
“V2 minis include key technologies — such as more powerful phased array antennas and the use of E-band for backhaul — which will allow Starlink to provide ~4x more capacity per satellite than earlier iterations,” SpaceX said via Twitter on Sunday. The V2 minis also sport argon Hall thrusters, which had never previously been used off Earth. The new thrusters “have 2.4x the thrust and 1.5x the specific impulse of our first gen thrusters,” SpaceX said in another Sunday tweet.
SpaceX had launched over 4,000 Starlink satellites to provide internet service globally, and the company plans to continue launching additional satellites. SpaceX has regulatory clearance to launch up to 12,000 Starlink satellites, and has submitted applications for approval to deploy an additional 30,000 satellites.
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