SpaceX has 'initiated communications' with its Starlink V2 Minis

The new satellites are a precursor to the Starlink V2 satellites that will eventually be lifted aboard SpaceX's Starship launch system.
Chris Young
A batch of Starlink V2 Minis.
A batch of Starlink V2 Minis.

SpaceX / Twitter 

SpaceX's Starlink V2 Minis, the smaller testbed version of its next-generation Starlink V2 satellites are now transmitting data back to Earth.

In a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing, SpaceX announced it has "initiated communications" between the satellites and licensed stations within the US, as first reported by PCMag.

Starlink V2 Mini satellites begin communicating

Though we know the satellites have started communicating, we still don't know for sure whether they have begun beaming internet data to Starlink customers.

SpaceX launched the first batch of Starlink V2 Minis back in February. At the time, it explained that the satellites are larger than their standard V1 satellites but smaller than the V2s, which will eventually be lifted to orbit using a Pez dispenser-style mechanism on its fully reusable Starship rocket.

The V2s will be too big to fly aboard SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. So, as a workaround, SpaceX is testing the technology aboard the smaller V2 Minis, which will also help to provide high-speed frequencies for customers using more powerful antennas. Space launched its most recent batch of V2 Minis in June.

The company also recently performed the first test flight of Starship, though it may have to wait a while before the world's most powerful rocket becomes fully operational.

Welcome news for the astronomical community

One benefit of the V2 Minis is that they appear to be less bright than the standard Starlink satellites. A new study uploaded to the preprint server arXiv suggests that they are roughly ten times fainter than the standard versions.

This will be welcome news for the astronomical community, some of which has organized against the relatively unregulated launches of Starlink. Recently, SpaceX has been working with the Federation of Astronomical Societies on methods for dimming its satellites and preventing them from appearing as bright streaks in astronomical observations.

SpaceX now has more than 4,250 satellites in orbit and it's waiting on FCC approval to send tens of thousands more. It will have to continue to work with the astronomical community on solutions if it hopes to avoid backlash against its service — even NASA has warned that it could impede its capacity for detecting potentially harmful asteroids headed toward Earth.

The standard V2 satellites will be larger, though, so it remains to be seen whether they will be as dim as the Minis that have just started communicating with ground stations.

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