SpaceX has achieved another milestone in its quest to provide global internet coverage with its Starlink constellation. The company launched 22 second-generation Starlink satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Saturday, August 26, 2023, at 9:05 p.m. EDT (0105 UTC). This was the second launch of the day for SpaceX, and the 63rd of the year, setting a new record for the most orbital launches in a single year by any launch provider.
Second launch of the day
The Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off on Saturday night was the same one that launched 22 Starlink satellites earlier in the day, at 2:19 a.m. EDT (0619 GMT). This marked the first time that SpaceX reused a rocket for two orbital launches in the same day, demonstrating its rapid turnaround capability and reliability. The first stage booster landed on the drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas in the Atlantic Ocean, completing its eighth flight.
The second launch was originally scheduled for Friday night, but was delayed due to unfavorable weather conditions. SpaceX had two backup opportunities on Saturday night, but managed to launch on the first attempt. The launch was broadcast live on SpaceX’s website and social media platforms.
Second-generation Starlink satellites
The 22 satellites that were launched on Saturday night were part of the second-generation Starlink constellation, which features improved performance and capabilities compared to the first-generation satellites. According to SpaceX, the second-generation Starlink satellites have:
- Higher data throughput and lower latency
- Inter-satellite laser links for seamless connectivity
- Enhanced security and encryption
- Higher power solar arrays and batteries
- More efficient propulsion and thermal management systems
- Reduced reflectivity and visibility from Earth
SpaceX has launched a total of 132 second-generation Starlink satellites so far, out of a planned 1,584. The company has also launched more than 4,600 first-generation Starlink satellites, which are still operational and providing internet service to customers in select regions around the world. SpaceX aims to eventually deploy tens of thousands of Starlink satellites to create a global broadband network that can reach remote and underserved areas.
Starlink service and availability
SpaceX has been offering Starlink internet service to select customers in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries since late 2020. The service costs $99 per month, plus a one-time fee of $499 for the Starlink kit, which includes a user terminal, a tripod, and a Wi-Fi router. Customers can sign up for the service on the Starlink website, where they can also check the availability and estimated delivery date of the kit in their area.
SpaceX claims that Starlink can provide download speeds of 50 to 150 Mbps, with latency of 20 to 40 milliseconds. However, these numbers are expected to improve as more satellites are launched and more ground stations are built. SpaceX also warns that customers may experience brief periods of no connectivity or degraded performance at times, as the constellation is still under development.
SpaceX plans to expand its Starlink service to more countries and regions in the near future, as well as offer mobile connectivity for vehicles, ships, and planes. The company has also partnered with several organizations and governments to provide Starlink internet access to schools, hospitals, emergency responders, and rural communities.