SpaceX is preparing for the Starlink Group 6-28 mission, which aims to launch 23 Starlink v2 Mini satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket. The launch is scheduled to take place from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, United States. This mission represents the 120th operational Starlink launch and will increase the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit to 5,445.
Starlink is SpaceX’s internet communication satellite system designed to provide fast and reliable internet access to areas with limited or no ground-based internet service. The current constellation consists of five orbital shells, with near-global coverage achieved after 28 launches. Once all five shells are filled, Starlink is projected to generate annual profits of $30-50 billion, which will support SpaceX’s ambitious Starship program and the development of Mars Base Alpha.
Each Starlink v2 Mini satellite weighs approximately 307 kg and features a compact design that allows for up to 60 satellites to be launched on a single Falcon 9 rocket. These satellites are equipped with advanced communication technology, including four phased array antennas and two parabolic antennas, ensuring high bandwidth and low-latency communication. They also utilize an inter-satellite laser communication system that enables direct communication between satellites, reducing the need for ground stations.
To enhance collision avoidance capabilities, the Starlink satellites incorporate an autonomous system that utilizes the US Department of Defense debris tracking database. This system helps the satellites avoid collisions with other spacecraft and space debris.
In terms of propulsion, the satellites are powered by a Hall-effect krypton-powered ion thruster, which is used for orbital positioning, orbit raising and lowering, and satellite deorbiting at the end of its lifespan. The thruster’s use of krypton fuel reduces manufacturing costs compared to traditional xenon thrusters.
Looking ahead, SpaceX plans to launch larger and more powerful Starlink v2 satellites on its Starship launch vehicle. These satellites will provide increased bandwidth, higher speeds, and improved performance. Additionally, they will serve as cell towers, enabling global cell phone coverage for T-Mobile customers. Each satellite is expected to offer 2-4 Mb/s of bandwidth per cell phone zone, supporting emergency services and other communication needs.
To bridge the gap until the Starship launch vehicle is ready, SpaceX is launching Starlink v2 Mini satellites that provide 4x more capacity than the previous versions. These Mini satellites feature a more powerful phased array antenna and utilize the E-band for backhaul.
Overall, the Starlink Group 6-28 mission represents another step in SpaceX’s mission to provide global internet coverage and advance space technology.