The company offered the use of its Starlink internet provided by satellites orbiting the planet to provide public internet access to Malden, as well as Bonney Lake. According to a report from Geekwire, SpaceX is offering this service free of charge.
Fires that began around Labor Day destroyed roughly 80% of Malden’s standing structures, and burned through hundreds of acres in the Bonney Lake area for days. On Twitter, SpaceX founder Elon Musk noted that the company is “prioritizing emergency responders and locations with no internet connectivity at all.”
SpaceX’s Starlink broadband internet currently uses upwards of 600 satellites in low orbit around Earth, eventually hoping to provide broadband access across the entire globe. The satellites themselves are actually made in Washington as well, produced at SpaceX’s Redmond facility.
Speaking on the possibility of using the satellites for future crises, the state’s Emergency Management Department hinted at their utility across a variety of possible scenarios.
“This is a device we could definitely utilize should we have even larger disasters, (like) a Cascadia Subduction earthquake, where (communication) problems would be a huge hurdle,” the department said on Twitter.
Well, we are emergency responders and it’s been pretty good. Our ESF-2 has been impressed with the connectivity. This is a device we could definitely utilize should we have even larger disasters, ie. a Cascadia Subduction earthquake, where comm problems would be a huge hurdle.
The launch of SpaceX’s next 60 Starlink satellites will wait for better weather and sea conditions after currents were too strong for the company’s rocket landing platform to hold position in the Atlantic Ocean for a launch attempt Thursday.
After scrubbing Thursday’s launch attempt, SpaceX initially said it might try again to launch the mission Friday afternoon.
But the launch company announced Thursday night that it would not proceed with a countdown Friday. It could take several days for conditions to improve enough to allow SpaceX to proceed with the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the company said.
SpaceX’s drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” was dispatched to a point nearly 400 miles (630 kilometers) northeast of Cape Canaveral for landing of the Falcon 9’s first stage booster. The reusable rocket is designed to be recovered and reused.
Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, said the current at the landing site in the Atlantic Ocean — roughly due east of Charleston, South Carolina — was too strong for the drone ship to hold station. He tweeted that underwater control thrusters will be upgraded for future missions.
Several tropical weather systems are moving across the Atlantic, including Hurricane Teddy in the central Atlantic Ocean and the remnants of Hurricane Sally off the U.S. East Coast.
SpaceX’s two drone ships are each about the size of a football field, and are designed to hold position while the Falcon 9’s first stage descends to a pinpoint touchdown with a series of braking maneuvers using rocket thrust. The mobile platforms, converted from barges, are emblazoned with a bullseye and a stylized “X” to mark the landing target.
Recovering and reusing rockets is crucial to SpaceX’s model of budget launch costs, and is key to maintaining the company’s fast-paced launch cadence. The mission that was originally scheduled to take off Thursday will carry 60 more satellites into orbit for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband Internet network.
SpaceX has previously gone ahead with missions despite poor weather in the offshore recovery area that could risk the booster’s landing. With reusability now ingrained in the company’s launch schedule, recovery is becoming more important.
SpaceX has launched 16 Falcon 9 flights so far this year, and the company is on track to launch more missions in 2020 than in any previous year. The company’s record for launches in a single year is 21 missions, which SpaceX achieved in 2018.
Only two of those missions have launched with newly-built first stages. The rest have launched with previously-flown boosters.
SpaceX plans to launch at least two more brand new Falcon 9 boosters in the coming months. Those are assigned to launch a GPS navigation satellite for the U.S. Space Force on Sept. 30 and a Crew Dragon capsule with four astronauts on Oct. 23.
The boosters on those missions will also be recovered on offshore drone ships and reused. SpaceX has two operational drone ships based at Port Canaveral, Florida, to support rocket landings.
Launches with heavy payloads, or missions targeting high-energy orbits, use too much of the Falcon 9’s propellant for the rocket’s first stage to reverse course and land back at Cape Canaveral. Most of SpaceX’s recent Falcon 9 launches have required drone ship landings for the first stage.
SpaceX has at least six more Falcon 9 missions scheduled to launch this year for the company’s customers. They include the GPS navigation satellite launch Sept. 30 from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, followed by the Crew Dragon launch to the International Space Station on Oct. 23 from pad 39A.
The company’s Cape Canaveral launch schedule for the rest of 2020 also includes a Dragon cargo mission set for launch to the space station Nov. 15, the Turksat 5A communications satellite scheduled for liftoff no earlier than Nov. 30, and a rideshare mission with dozens of small satellites set to go Dec. 16.
In addition to the missions from Florida, SpaceX plans to launch the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite Nov. 10 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The oceanography satellite is a joint project between NASA, NOAA, the European Space Agency, the French space agency CNES, and the European weather satellite agency Eumetsat.
In between the missions for external customers, SpaceX will continue launching groups of Starlink satellites on flights every few weeks. SpaceX has launched more than 700 Starlink satellites to date, and the company plans to deploy 1,440 spacecraft to complete the first generation of the Starlink network to provide Internet service to most of the world’s populated regions.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying South Korea’s ANASIS-II satellite stands atop a Florida launch pad ahead of a July 2020 launch. The same rocket booster will launch 60 Starlink satellites on Sept. 18, 2020.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled to launch 60 new Starlink satellites for the company’s growing megaconstellation at 2:19 p.m. EDT (1819 GMT) Thursday from Pad 39A of NASA’s historic Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But 15 minutes before the planned liftoff, SpaceX scrubbed the mission.
“Standing down from today’s Starlink launch due to recovery issue; vehicle and payload remain healthy,” SpaceX representatives announced in a Twitter update. “Next launch opportunity is tomorrow, September 18 at 1:57 p.m. EDT, but we are keeping an eye on the weather.”
SpaceX did not specify the nature of the “recovery issue,” but it is presumably related to the company’s plan to recover the first stage of the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket by landing it on the company’s drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” in the Atlantic Ocean. Good weather at the floating landing pad is required to ensure a safe landing.
Recovering Falcon 9 rocket boosters is a key part of SpaceX’s plan to reduce the cost of spaceflight while scaling up the company’s launch pace. The Falcon 9 first stage on this mission has already flown twice before this year. It launched SpaceX’s Demo-2 astronaut mission for NASA in May, then flew again in July to deliver the South Korean military satellite ANASIS-II into orbit.
SpaceX has launched 16 missions so far in 2020, with this flight, called Starlink 12, set to be the 13th Starlink mission since 2019.
SpaceX has launched more than 700 Starlink satellites into orbit to build a massive constellation designed to provide high-speed broadband internet access around the world. The company initially plans to build a constellation of 1,400 satellites, with a core of between 500 and 800 required for initial service, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said.
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About a month ago, SpaceX pulled off a first hop test for one of its Starship prototypes, and now it has repeated the feat. SN6 looks a lot like its predecessor SN5, with both missing a nose cone and fins, which makes them resemble a rocket-powered silo rising about 500 feet above the ground. In a tweet Elon Musk — who called a previous prototype a flying water tower — tweeted “Turns out you can make anything fly haha.”
Video of the event in Boca Chica, TX has been captured both by outside observers and SpaceX itself, which also provides some camera angles captured from the vehicle itself. After some short hops, Musk has said the next step will be to apply the missing flaps and attempt high altitude tests. The plan is for its Starship to eventually be capable of multiple flights in a day, possibly launching from spaceports at sea, but we’re not quite there yet.
During the launch of its latest batch of internet-beaming Starlink satellites, SpaceX revealed key details about the planned constellation’s abilities, claiming that the satellites have shown “super low latency and download speeds greater than 100 mbps.” The speeds are still not as fast as what SpaceX originally claimed for the constellation, but they are slightly faster than what early user testing has shown.
Starlink is SpaceX’s ambitious plan to launch nearly 12,000 satellites into low orbits around Earth in order to provide broadband coverage to the ground below. Users of the system are meant to tap into the constellation using personal antennas on the ground, what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has described as looking like a “UFO on a stick.” Early photos of the device have been revealed in the source code of SpaceX’s Starlink website.
After today’s launch, SpaceX has put more than 700 satellites in orbit, more than the 400 needed to provide “initial operational capability,” according to Musk, and close to the 800 needed to provide “significant operational capabilities.” This summer, SpaceX began early beta testing of the constellation, with employees using Starlink to test out the download speeds. “The Starlink team has been collecting latency statistics and performing standard speed tests of the system,” Kate Tice, senior program reliability engineer at SpaceX, said during the launch broadcast today. “This means that we’re checking how fast data travels from the satellites to our customers, and then back to the rest of the internet. Initial results have been good.”
Tice stated that the download speeds were greater than 100 megabytes per second (MBps), while SpaceX’s Twitter account repeated that claim. The statement seemed to be an error, though, as SpaceX then deleted the tweet to clarify that the download speeds were actually 100 megabits per second (Mbps). Tice also said the latency speeds have been “low enough to play the fastest online video games, and our download speed is fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once and still have bandwidth to spare.”
It sounds impressive, but it’s still not quite the gigabit speeds that SpaceX promised in its original filing with the Federal Communications Commission. SpaceX noted in the filing that it would need to deploy its first full constellation of more than 4,400 satellites to get up to those speeds. Tice also clarified that there is still a lot of work to be done with Starlink, too. “Our network, of course, is very much a work in progress,” she said. “And over time, we will continue to add features to unlock the full capability of that network.”
The 100 Mbps speeds are also slightly more impressive than what early tests have shown through Ookla’sspeedtest.net tool, a service designed to test download and upload speeds. In mid-August, Reddit users posted tests from supposed beta testers using the Starlink constellation who were receiving average download speeds of between 11 Mbps and 60 Mbps. Such speeds are on the low end compared to traditional broadband internet, although they may still be faster than speeds currently available in many rural areas of the US. SpaceX does hope to roll out the Starlink service to rural or hard-to-reach areas where even lower speeds might be an improvement of the status quo.
Still, demonstrating faster speeds is going to be key for SpaceX, as it’s vying for funds from an FCC auction slated for October of this year. The FCC is offering up to $16 billion to companies that can help bring broadband services to “over six million homes and businesses in census blocks that are entirely unserved by voice and broadband.” And the FCC is looking for downloads speeds of at least 25 Mbps, with upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.
SpaceX claims that it has just achieved a big breakthrough with its Starlink satellites that could help with data sharing. During the webcast, Tice noted that SpaceX had successfully tested two satellites in orbit that had inter-satellite links, “space lasers” that allowed the satellites to transfer “hundreds of gigabytes of data” between the two spacecraft. Prior to launching its first Starlink satellites, SpaceX said that all of its satellites would have inter-satellite links like the one demonstrated recently. “Once the space lasers are fully deployed, Starlink will be one of the fastest options available to transfer data around the world,” Tice said.
In the meantime, SpaceX is about to open up public beta testing. Interested users can sign up through the company’s Starlink website, providing their email and address to see if they qualify for the program. In an FAQ found in the source code of the Starlink website, SpaceX said that beta testing would focus first on rural communities in Washington, expanding to the northern United States and southern Canada. Public beta tests should provide better real-world results than these early beta tests, though users will likely have to sign nondisclosure agreements, according to SpaceX’s original source code. “You may NOT discuss your participation in the Beta Program online or with those outside of your household, unless they are SpaceX employees,” the website’s FAQ stated.
A Falcon 9 rocket had been scheduled to loft the 60 Starlink satellites on Tuesday morning (Sept. 1) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But those plans have changed, SpaceX representatives announced today (Aug. 31).
“Now targeting Thursday, September 3 at 8:46 a.m. EDT for launch of Starlink from Launch Complex 39A, pending Range acceptance — team is using additional time for data review,” SpaceX said via Twitter this afternoon. (“Range” refers to the Eastern Range, the U.S. Space Force entity that oversees launches from the East Coast.)
Now targeting Thursday, September 3 at 8:46 a.m. EDT for launch of Starlink from Launch Complex 39A, pending Range acceptance — team is using additional time for data reviewAugust 31, 2020
SpaceX has already launched 600 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. But the constellation will get far bigger than that, if things go according to plan: SpaceX has approval to loft 12,000 Starlink spacecraft and has applied for permission to launch about 30,000 more on top of that.
The upcoming Starlink launch was originally targeted for Sunday (Aug. 30), but bad weather scuttled that attempt.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
The first of two planned back-to-back SpaceX launches Sunday was called off because of bad weather during pre-flight processing, but the company pressed ahead with plans to launch an Argentine remote sensing satellite Sunday evening.
Launch of the SAOCOM 1B radar observation satellite atop a Falcon 9 booster with a previously flown first stage was targeted for 7:18 p.m. EDT from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Also on board: two small hitch-hiker satellites added to the flight under a “rideshare” arrangement.
The launching will mark the 92nd flight of a workhorse Falcon 9, SpaceX’s 100th overall, when five earlier Falcon 1 flights are included along with three launches of triple-core Falcon Heavy boosters.
SpaceX had planned to launch two Falcon 9s just nine hours apart on Sunday, the shortest span between two orbit-class U.S. launches since 1966. The double header fell into place after a dramatic last-second “hot-fire abort” early Saturday of a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite.
Leading off the Sunday flight plan was a Falcon 9 set to carry 60 Starlink internet relay satellites into space from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:12 a.m. The SAOCOM 1B mission would follow suit from the nearby Air Force station.
But the Starlink booster was not hauled out of its hangar until early Sunday, and SpaceX later said in a tweet the team had called off the launch attempt “due to inclement weather during pre-flight operations.” The next opportunity to get the Starlinks off the ground is Tuesday at 9:29 a.m.
Despite the Starlink scrub and somewhat iffy weather, SpaceX pressed ahead with preparations for the evening launch of SAOCOM 1B. Forecasters called for a 40% chance of acceptable conditions.
The mission is intended to put SAOCOM 1B into orbit around Earth’s poles, the first such flight from Florida since 1969.
To reach a polar orbit from Cape Canaveral, the Falcon 9 will take off on a southerly trajectory and then carry out a “dogleg” maneuver once clear of Florida’s coast to bend the trajectory more directly south. The flight path will carry the rocket over Cuba.
In 1960, falling debris from a malfunctioning rocket reportedly killed a cow in Cuba, prompting protests in the island nation. All polar orbit missions since 1969 have taken off from Vandenberg where rockets remain above the Pacific Ocean all the way to orbit.
SpaceX initially planned to launch SAOCOM 1B from Vandenberg, but sought permission to move the flight to Cape Canaveral to ease ground processing issues.
The company presumably won government approval for the move in part because of the dogleg maneuver, which minimizes overflight of populated areas, the rocket’s high altitude by the time it reaches populated areas farther downrange and because the Falcon 9 features an automated flight safety system. The AFTS is designed to quickly terminate a flight if an impending catastrophic problem is detected.
The 6,720-pound SAOCOM 1B requires a polar orbit to enable its cloud-penetrating radar to observe the entire planet as it rotates below. The spacecraft will work in concert with an identical L-band radar mapper launched in 2018 along with Italy’s COSMO-SkyMed X-band satellites.
Bound for a 360-mile-high orbit, the $600 million SOACOM system is designed to monitor soil moisture and a range of other factors affecting the agricultural sector, collecting high-resolution data around the clock regardless of cloud cover.
“One of the main targets of the SAOCOM satellites is to provide information for the agriculture sector,” Raúl Kulichevsky, executive and technical director of CONAE, Argentina’s space agency, told Spaceflight Now.
“One of the things we develop is soil moisture maps, not only of the surface, but taking advantage of the L-band capabilities we can measure the soil moisture 1 meter below the surface of the land. So this is very important information.”
For the first time in more than 16 months, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster has been spotted heading west towards the company’s California pad, a sure sign that the next West Coast launch is just over the horizon.
First spotted in West Texas on August 20th, the Falcon 9 booster – wrapped in a class black plastic cocoon – was captured a second time three days later between Arizona and California. The rocket wrapped up the ~2600 kilometer (~1600 mi) journey from SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas development and test facilities early on August 24th, arriving at the company’s Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC-4) facilities.
At least according to publicly-available launch manifests, the unknown Falcon 9 booster will be spending a fair bit of time in SpaceX’s SLC-4E hangar before its first Californian launch. Still, considering that many misinterpreted a year-old regulatory document as confirmation of SpaceX’s permanent withdrawal from VAFB just earlier this month, a surprise booster arrival is an encouraging sign.
As of now, SpaceX has two or three possible West Coast missions scheduled in the last few months of 2020, but there’s a strong chance that they’ll suffer delays as they near their tentative launch dates. Up first is the joint NASA-ESA Sentinel 6A (Sentinel 6 Michael Freilich, Jason-CS A) ocean topography satellite, one of two new spacecraft meant to continue work done by the Jason-3 spacecraft (launched by SpaceX in 2016). According to a joint review completed on June 25th and referenced in an official document (PDF), SpaceX and NASA are working towards the first Sentinel 6A launch attempt no earlier than (NET) November 10th, 2020.
NASA awarded SpaceX the $97 million launch contract in 2017, all but guaranteeing that Sentinel 6A will fly on a brand new Falcon 9 booster. The fact that the booster spotted in transport over the last week was never seen East of Texas strongly implies that it’s a new Falcon 9 SpaceX tested in McGregor before shipping back to California, in which case Sentinel 6A is almost certainly SpaceX’s next VAFB launch.
In the likely event that the booster that arrived at VAFB on August 24th is unflown, it’s probably Falcon 9 B1063. Germany’s SARah-1 radar imaging satellite is possibly the only other West Coast launch on SpaceX’s manifest that could warrant sending a new booster to California, but recent signs point towards that ~2200 kg (4850 lb) spacecraft launching in Q1 2021 (a delay from Q4 2020) as part of a dedicated SpaceX rideshare mission.
Less likely, SARah-1 could have been manifested on SpaceX’s first dedicated rideshare mission, scheduled to launch in December 2020. Either way, as fairly complex and expensive one-off science spacecraft, both SARah-1 and Sentinel 6A are liable to slip right from their current launch targets, meaning that Falcon 9 B1063 will likely spend at least 2-3 months in storage between now and the start of its first launch flow.
Regardless of the payload or the first stage launching it, SpaceX shipped its former West Coast drone ship landing platform to Florida more than a year ago. Any Falcon 9 booster launching from California will thus have to be expended or land back on land at LZ-4.
While SpaceX and its mystery Falcon 9 booster wait for their next West Coast launch, the company will likely take advantage of the opportunity to familiarize an almost entirely new team of pad and launch engineers and technicians. After its June 2019 Radarsat Constellation Mission launch, SpaceX effectively mothballed its Vandenberg pad and either laid off or transferred the vast majority of employees specific to SLC-4. SpaceX began hiring to rebuild that team in early 2020.
Thanks to a major multi-launch US military contract SpaceX won just a few weeks ago, the company’s Vandenberg facilities are all but guaranteed to remain active – even if only intermittently so – for most of the 2020s.
Payload fairings are the shrouds that protect satellites during launch. SpaceX fairings come in two pieces, both of which come back to Earth under parachutes in a guided fashion, thanks to small thrusters. Such tech aids recovery and reuse of the fairings, which cost about $6 million each, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.
GO Ms. Tree and its sister ship, GO Ms. Chief, are part of this picture as well. Seawater is extremely corrosive, so snatching fairing halves out of the sky makes refurbishment easier, Musk has said. The ships have snagged a handful of fairings to date, including a double catch during the launch of a South Korean military satellite last month. (Ocean splashdowns don’t preclude reuse, however; SpaceX has reflown fairings that it fished out of the water.)
GO Ms. Chief pulled one fairing half out of the Atlantic Ocean today. But GO Ms. Tree caught the other one, a success captured by a camera-equipped drone. Musk posted that footage on Twitter Tuesday, scoring the 43-second video with some playfully incongruous lounge music.
Today’s launch featured reusability action on multiple fronts. It was the sixth launch for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, for example, a milestone that SpaceX had never before achieved. And more liftoffs are likely coming for the booster, which aced its landing on a ship at sea Tuesday.
Starlink is SpaceX’s burgeoning constellation of internet satellites. The company has launched nearly 600 Starlink craft to date, and many more will go up in the near future: SpaceX has permission to launch 12,000 such satellites and has applied for approval to loft up to 30,000 on top of that.
The three other satellites that went up today are SkySats. They belong to San Francisco-based company Planet, which operates the world’s largest constellation of Earth-observing spacecraft.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
SpaceX sent another batch of Starlink broadband satellites on their way to orbit from Florida on Tuesday, along with a few Earth-observing metal birds, and made history once again in the process.
The Falcon 9 booster that Elon Musk’s space company used for the ride share had previously flown on three Starlink missions and on two commercial satellite delivery gigs. That means its flight this week was its sixth, a new mark for a single orbital rocket.
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“Some big milestones coming up,” Musk said on Twitter Sunday, referring to the sixth flight of the booster (serial number B-1049) and the 100th mission for SpaceX over the company’s history.
The Falcon 9 first stage actually set two records on the same day, by first launching for the sixth time and then landing for the sixth time a short while later.
The launch went off on schedule Tuesday morning at 7:31 a.m. PT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and the booster landed about nine minutes later on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to the historic launch and landing, SpaceX managed to catch one half of the nose cone that protected the 58 Starlink satellites and three satellites belonging to Earth-imagery company Planet as they blasted through the atmosphere. The fairing half was snagged using a large ship equipped with a net, as seen in the video below. The other half reportedly landed nearby in the water.
This fairing pair is also experienced in flight, having been used and recovered on an earlier Starlink mission. SpaceX has just recently perfected its method for retrieving these components, and we’ll see if it can eventually make a habit of this and continue to expand its recycling program.
Although officially named Starlink 10, this was actually the 11th launch of a batch of Starlink satellites, following the most recent prior mission on Aug. 7. The next one after this week’s is set for September, and will be preceded by a Falcon 9 launch in late August of a Argentinian satellite that was originally scheduled for a 2019 liftoff.