SpaceX is set to launch its Starlink Group 6-27 mission, which will deploy 23 Starlink v2 Mini satellites using a Falcon 9 rocket. The launch will take place from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, USA.
Starlink is SpaceX’s satellite constellation that provides fast and low-latency internet service to areas where terrestrial internet is unreliable or unavailable. The mission will mark the 119th operational Starlink launch, bringing the total number of satellites in orbit to approximately 5,054, out of the 5,422 launched.
Each Starlink v2 Mini satellite has a compact design with a mass of 307 kg. SpaceX has developed a flat-panel design that allows up to 60 satellites and the payload dispenser to be accommodated in the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. This design enables the recovery of the first stage, while still achieving a payload capacity of around 18 tonnes to low-Earth orbit.
The Starlink satellites are equipped with advanced communication and cost-saving technology. They feature four phased array antennas and two parabolic antennas for high bandwidth and low-latency communication. The satellites also have a star tracker for precise attitude control and an inter-satellite laser communication system that enables direct communication between satellites, eliminating the need for ground stations.
To ensure collision avoidance, the satellites utilize an autonomous system that leverages the US Department of Defense debris tracking database. Each satellite has a single solar panel and is powered by krypton-fueled ion thrusters, which reduces manufacturing costs. The thruster also assists in orbital maneuvers and deorbiting at the end of the satellite’s life.
Currently, SpaceX is launching the Starlink v2 Mini satellites due to delays in the Starship launch vehicle. These satellites have a more powerful phased array antenna and use the E-band for backhaul, providing four times more capacity than the previous versions.
In the future, SpaceX plans to launch the larger and more powerful Starlink v2 satellites on its Starship launch vehicle. These satellites will significantly increase bandwidth, speed, and overall performance and will serve as cell towers, providing global cell phone coverage.
The successful deployment of the Starlink constellation will generate significant profits, estimated at $30-50 billion annually, which will contribute to SpaceX’s ambitious Starship program and the plans for Mars colonization.