SpaceX may launch Gen 2 Starlink satellites by the end of the month

According to an FCC filing earlier this month, SpaceX are looking to get permission to launch the next generation of its Starlink satellites very soon.
Christopher McFadden
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If an FCC filing is anything to go by, SpaceX could be launching the next generation of Starlink soon.

SpaceX/Starlink 

A filing with the FCC suggests that SpaceX hopes to launch a new Starlink broadband satellite system soon. This could help the company keep up with the increase in demand.

The company wants to connect current user terminals to upcoming satellites in geosynchronous orbit (NGSO) and needs a special temporary authorization (STA) from the FCC for 60 days. If granted, SpaceX could begin providing Gen 2 services while the FCC investigates its request for longer-term authority.

SpaceX told the FCC that once its satellites are up and running, consumers can use the extra capacity for low-latency broadband services through its updated, next-generation NGSO system.

All this despite placing hundreds of first-generation Starlink satellites into orbit on Falcon 9 rockets this year, Elon Musk's SpaceX, which was formed in 2002, is experiencing congestion on its broadband network, according to SpaceNews.

SpaceX tweeted on December 19 that Starlink now had over one million "active subscribers," up from the 250,000 the firm claimed it had in March.

According to Ookla's data, which shows how median Starlink download speeds have continued to decline across the United States and Canada, the network has been strained due to its rising popularity.

To date, more than 3,600 Starlink satellites have been launched by SpaceX using Falcon 9 rockets. Out of those, it is estimated that 3,300 of the 4,408 Gen1 satellites allowed by the FCC are still in space.

The FCC gave Starlink partial permission to use 7,500 of the almost 30,000 satellites in its intended Gen2 network on December 1, 2022.

The new satellites will be more capable and potentially invisible to the naked eye

SpaceX thinks that Gen 2 will add new features like direct-to-smartphone services and more space for people who already use Starlink. The FCC is still looking at SpaceX's overall plan to extend the Gen2 constellation significantly.

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SpaceX says that new improvements to its Starlink Gen 2 satellites will make it easier for astronomers worldwide to do their work.

The improvements consider how Starlink satellites reflect sunlight as they travel around the globe. The Starlink satellites will be "invisible to the human eye while at their typical operational altitude" if they are as effective as SpaceX says.

The regulator also put off deciding on SpaceX's plan to put tiny radio frequency beacons on Gen2 satellites. The company says the beacons will make the satellites safer by performing unique telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) tasks.

In a different regulatory filing, SpaceX revealed more information about the beacons, including how they could track and stay in touch with Gen 2 satellites during orbit raises and bad space weather.

SpaceX says that the beacons could send messages about tracking telemetry about once every 100 seconds on average.

According to a letter from SpaceX's senior director of satellite policy David Goldman to the FCC dated December 15, “once the satellites reach their intended orbit, the beacons will be shut off, only to transmit again if commanded in the unlikely event of an emergency,”

“Such capability will enable SpaceX to continue to lead the industry in space stewardship by formally including a redundant backup TT&C system on its already-advanced Gen2 satellites,” he added.

Launch schedules show that SpaceX plans to send another Starlink mission on December 28, depending on weather and technical problems. The most recent Starlink launch occurred on Dec.

On that mission, the Gen2 Starlink satellites, which are larger and more powerful than the current generation, may be launched for the first time.

SpaceX plans to use Falcon 9 rockets and its future Starship heavy-launch vehicle to put Gen 2 into service. The company plans to launch Gen2 satellites at least once a week and hopes to do it more often.

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