SpaceX hoped to have 60 custom communication satellites in circulation today, but instead has zero. The private space airline blasted the first attempt to launch its Starlink internet satellites on Wednesday this week, and a new launch has now been canceled. However, it is not the fault of mother nature. SpaceX says the satellites need a software update.
Starlink is Elon Musk's vision for the future of internet access. The system will eventually include more than 12,000 satellites in different tracks. The goal is to gain access to low latent internet to large parts of the world. More than 7500 of these satellites will be in a lot of ground (VLEO) to reduce the latency on the ground. The network connects to ground stations with the V-band ranging from 40 GHz to 75 GHz. SpaceX has not provided many specific features on Starlink, but hopefully it can do better than existing satellite broadband solutions that can have latency of almost a second.
The recently delayed launch was the first complete Starlink implementation, but there are already a couple of test satellites in orbit. In February, a Falcon 9 rocket with an Earth observation satellite also had two Starlink satellites as secondary payload. SpaceX has not talked about the results of these satellites, but they have probably helped the company avoid software problems at its main deployment.
According to SpaceX, there is another launch window for the Starlink mission for about a week. Including this repository in the delay message suggests that the company is aiming to get its satellites up to date and ready at that time. Although it may take longer – we don't know what kind of software updates are. Falcon 9 has prepped and waited for launchpad for several days, and the satellites are packed tightly inside fairing. If engineers need physical access to the satellites, it may take a while to get them ready for launch.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 12, 2019
SpaceX wants 420 orbit satellites (7 launches of 60 satellites) before turning the switch on Starlink. It will take another six launches before Starlink offers what Elon Musk calls "significant coverage". Each of these launches is a beginner of 18.5 tons, the largest ever for a Falcon 9.
It is an expensive company, so it makes sense SpaceX would like to "triple-check" the satellites before launching the first batch. The company will use this initial block to test the capacity of its system. If they don't work, SpaceX is back to the drawing board.