We now know how many of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband data satellites, developed in Redmond, Wash., can be crammed into the nose cone of a Falcon rocket.
The answer to the ultimate question is 60.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk showed how five dozen satellites fit, just barely, inside a Falcon fairing today in a tweet:
First 60 @SpaceX Starlink satellites loaded into Falcon fairing. Tight fit. pic.twitter.com/gZq8gHg9uK
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 12, 2019
The Starlink project is due to go through a milestone Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as early as next week. The demonstration mission will mark another step toward the deployment of thousands of satellites designed to provide low-cost global internet access.
These first satellites are equipped with antennas and networking equipment to communicate with ground stations in a variety of locations, including three in Washington state. But as SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell reported at this week’s Satellite 2019 conference, they won’t demonstrate the satellite-to-satellite links that knit the constellation together. That will have to wait for future deployments.
For what it’s worth, 60 satellites won’t set a record for a single rocket launch, or even a single Falcon 9 launch. Last December’s SmallSat Express launch, organized by Seattle-based Spaceflight, put 64 satellites on a Falcon 9.
In follow-up tweets, Musk added a few more details about the launch, the satellites and their role in the Starlink constellation:
If static fire