SpaceX launches batch of 21 new "V2 mini" Starlink satellites to orbit
SpaceX lifted the first batch of its new Starlink "V2 mini" satellites to orbit on Monday, February 27.
The private space firm launched 21 of the new generation satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket that also came down to perform the 100th successful booster landing in a row for the company.
The Starlink mission took to the skies at 6:13 pm EST (2313 GMT) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The launch was delayed roughly five hours before liftoff due to "a space weather concern," SpaceX explained on Twitter.
SpaceX completes 100th booster landing in a row
The Monday mission saw SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster land on the company's droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas, stationed off the coast of Florida, roughly 8.5 minutes after launch.
Meanwhile, the Falcon 9's upper stage continued on to low Earth orbit, where it deployed 21 of the new Starlink V2 mini satellites that SpaceX unveiled only a few days ago.
SpaceX typically launches Starlink satellites in batches of about 50 satellites at a time. However, the 21 V2 mini Starlink satellites are a test set designed to fit onboard the company's Falcon 9 rocket. The full-size versions will be larger and will be launched in large batches aboard SpaceX's next-generation Starship rocket, which could perform its first orbital test flight next year.
We call them “V2 Mini”. They represent a step forward in Starlink capability pic.twitter.com/EFVpLFcz7n— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 26, 2023
Those full-size Starlink V2 satellites will weight will weigh 1.25 tons (1,130 kilograms) and be able to send service directly to cellphones, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The company recently announced a partnership with T-Mobile to provide straight-to-cell coverage.
So, despite the name, the V2 mini satellites that were lifted to orbit this week were actually larger than the V1 Starlink satellites SpaceX has lifted to orbit in droves until now.
What are Starlink's new V2 mini Starlink satellites?
In a tweet on Sunday, SpaceX wrote: "V2 minis include key technologies — such as more powerful phased array antennas and the use of E-band for backhaul — which will allow Starlink to provide ~4x more capacity per satellite than earlier iterations."
Separately, the private space company also stated that the V2 minis feature argon Hall thrusters, which had never been used in space before. The new thrusters "have 2.4x the thrust and 1.5x the specific impulse of our first gen thrusters," SpaceX explained.
First Starlink v2 satellites reach orbit pic.twitter.com/0l08568mJ9— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 28, 2023
SpaceX has so far launched more than 4,000 Starlink satellites to orbit, and it has applied for approval to deploy roughly 30,000 more satellites — leading some scientists to organize against what they see as a potentially dangerous practice. NASA and SpaceX, meanwhile, scrubbed the launch of the Crew-6 mission to the ISS late in the mission's countdown on Monday morning, citing a ground-system issue.