The mission patch for SpaceX’s first dedicated launch for the Starlink network. Credit: SpaceX
The 60 satellites SpaceX is set to launch Wednesday night, beginning the build-out of a broadband network of orbiting spacecraft that could eventually number thousands, are based on a new flat-panel design, with krypton-fueled plasma thrusters, high-power antennas, and a hazard avoidance camera SpaceX says can warn of potential collisions with other objects in space.
Each of the Starlink satellites weighs around 500 pounds (227 kilograms), according to SpaceX. Stacked together inside the payload shroud of a Falcon 9 rocket, the 60 satellites weigh 15 tons (13,620 kilograms), making the cargo on Wednesday night’s launch the heaviest ever lofted into orbit by SpaceX.
The new mass record bests the weight of SpaceX’s fully-fueled Crew Dragon spacecraft, which launched March 2 on an unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station.
In a press kit released early Wednesday, SpaceX disclosed new information about the Starlink satellites’ design and functionality. Each Starlink spacecraft has a flat-panel design with multiple high-throughput antennas and a single solar array, according to information released in the press kit.
The Starlink satellites carry Hall thrusters, which use electricity and krypton gas to generate ...