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SpaceX has all Starlink funding needed to create an "operational constellation"



Upper wind shear unfortunately canceled SpaceX Starlink's first dedicated launch attempt, pushing the third takeoff of Falcon 9 B1049 no earlier than 22:30 EDT (02:30 UTC) on 16 May.

A few hours before the launch attempt, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk organized a teleconference with members of the press and answered a number of questions about Starlink, offering the best insight into the company's new business. . The topics covered included the advanced technologies of each Starlink satellite, their extremely unorthodox deployment method, the ultimate SpaceX objectives for the constellation, and even some brief commentary on funding.

Secured financing

Perhaps the most important thing Musk noticed at the one-hour press conference was that SpaceX already had "enough capital to build an operational constellation." It's possible that this statement is highly qualified because Musk has not gone into details, but it's still an incredible claim that could mean that Starlink is far ahead of competing constellations and far more capital-efficient than OneWeb.

As previously reported on Teslarati, OneWeb has collected $ 3.4 billion over the last four years, while SpaceX, a company specializing in the construction and launching of rockets, has raised $ 2 billion, half of which is dedicated at Starlink. The cost estimate for the OneWeb constellation (650 or 2650 satellites) has increased somewhat recently to about $ 5 billion. Assuming that the $ 2 billion SpaceX funding is allocated to Starlink, this would result in a satellite cost – infrastructure and launch included – of $ 450,000 for the first phase (approximately 4,400 satellites).

Musk's contextual definition of "operational constellation" is probably more in tune with the twelve launches of 60 satellites that he has described as necessary to provide [broadband] "It could also refer to the whole of the approximately 1600 Starlink satellites planned for the 550 km (340 mi) low orbit on which this first group of 60, number that Musk is heading to." said that would offer a "decent global coverage." In any case, Starlink is arguably much more efficient in capital than OneWeb, LeoSat, Telesat or any other constellation of satellites with serious intentions.

The most obvious explanation for this – regardless of the satellites themselves – is simple: SpaceX possesses its own closed-loop launch capability, including platforms, integration facilities, a well-established international transportation network and rockets (Falcon) themselves. For all the proposed satellite configurations to succeed, manufacturers will almost always have to find building satellites at an affordable cost, so that the launch cost exceeds the cost of its payload. This ultimately means that launches alone could represent around 50% of the cost of a complete satellite constellation.

Assuming that block 5 boosters can be reused at least 5 to 10 times, the only real cost of an internal SpaceX launch is hours worked, fleet retrieval operations, as well as the number of hours worked. upper floor and fairing used, probably under $ 30 million. As such, SpaceX could already meet its satellite cost targets in its first launch.

Deployment of satellites "like to display a deck of cards"

Meanwhile, Musk also provided details on the deeply unorthodox method that SpaceX has chosen for the deployment of spacecraft once in orbit. Apparently, the Starlink satellites will be deployed from the Falcon 9's upper deck by rotating the stage (presumably along its vertical axis) and simply dropping the spacecraft. Musk used the analogy of spreading a deck of cards on a table, apparently suggesting that they will be distributed simultaneously (perhaps by stack) or with an offset in milliseconds. This could create a fairly dramatic visual, forming a spiral of spaced evenly spaced satellites, starting from the Falcon's top floor.

First of all, Musk seemed to be particularly excited about Starlink, whether it was the long-term goals of the constellation or the technology used on each satellite. Below are some facts and excerpts from the question period:

  • Apart from Ka-band antennas and inter-satellite laser links, these 60 Starlink satellites are very close to the final satellite design.
  • "This is one of the most challenging engineering projects I've ever seen." – Elon Musk
  • Starlink v0.9 is SpaceX's heaviest payload to date, with a huge margin, weighing about 18,500 kg (40,800 kg). Crew Dragon is probably in second position, with an estimated launch mass of around 13,500 kg.
  • Together, the 60 Starlink satellite solar panels will produce up to 50% more energy than the football-sized panels of the International Space Station. This corresponds to about 180 kW, with each spacecraft producing about 3 kW in total with an unusual one-panel network.
    • Two mechanisms of deployment of solar panels will be tested during this mission.
  • "We see it as a way to generate revenue for developing more advanced rockets and spacecraft. Starlink is a key element for establishing a presence on the Moon and on Mars. – Elon Musk
  • SpaceX has opted for krypton-powered Hall thrusters, with krypton being 5 to 10 times cheaper than the more traditional xenon propeller. The propellers designed and built in-house by SpaceX will have an ISP of about 1500.
  • "[SpaceX has built] the most advanced phased array antenna[s] that I know of. – Elon Musk
  • These first 60 satellites alone will have a combined bandwidth of 1 terabit per second (125 Gb / s), an average of about 17 Gbps per satellite.
The second phase of the Starlink tests – 60 advanced satellites – in a single fairing. (SpaceX)
The first two prototypes of SpaceX Starlink satellites deployed since Falcon 9 in February 2018 (SpaceX)
The deployment of the Starlink v0.9 satellite will apparently not resemble the traditional method used with Tintin A / B. (SpaceX)

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