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SpaceX to launch “dozens” of Starlink satellites May 15, more Starlink launches to follow

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WASHINGTON — SpaceX’s first launch to hold a lot of Starlink broadband satellites is scheduled for Might 15, based on an organization govt.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief working officer, mentioned the launch will carry “dozens of satellites,” including extra prototypes to the 2 at the moment in low Earth orbit.

“This subsequent batch of satellites will actually be an indication set for us to see the deployment scheme and begin placing our community collectively,” she mentioned on the Satellite tv for pc 2019 convention right here. “We begin launching satellites for precise service later this yr.”

Shotwell mentioned SpaceX anticipates launching two to 6 extra occasions for its Starlink broadband constellation along with the Might 15 launch. What number of Starlink launches happen this yr depend upon the outcomes of this primary batch, she mentioned.

SpaceX is planning a constellation that might quantity near 12,000 satellites, based on filings with the U.S. Federal Communications Fee. The corporate mentioned in 2017 that it would need 800 satellites in orbit for business service — a goal estimated for the 2020 to 2021 timeframe.

Shotwell mentioned the demonstration satellites launching Might 15 can be scaled down “check satellites” that lack intersatellite hyperlinks. The check satellites could have very succesful onboard antennas and electrical propulsion, she mentioned.

Shotwell mentioned the launch, anticipated in early Might, was pushed again to Might 15 as a consequence of delays with an earlier cargo mission to the Worldwide House Station for NASA. SpaceX launched a Dragon provide capsule on a Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS on May 4 after an influence downside on the station and a subsequent electrical difficulty with SpaceX’s rocket retrieval droneship delayed the mission from Might 1.

SpaceX is focusing on 18 to 21 launches for this yr, not together with the Starlink missions, Shotwell mentioned. That charge is per earlier years — SpaceX launched 18 occasions in 2017 and 21 occasions final yr — however decrease than the 30 to 40 annual launches the company forecasted in 2017.

Shotwell mentioned SpaceX expanded its manufacturing capacity to 40 rockets a yr in anticipation of a business growth that didn’t occur.

“We thought the business market would possibly broaden to that, I believe we in all probability wished it had, however [now] we’ve acquired loads of capability to launch our Starlink system,” she mentioned.

SpaceX has launched 5 occasions this yr — 4 Falcon 9s and one Falcon Heavy.

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