SpaceX experiencing problems with first upgraded Starlink V2 satellites

WASHINGTON — The primary set of bigger second-generation Starlink satellites is experiencing issues that would require SpaceX to deorbit no less than a few of them.

In a March 22 tweet, SpaceX Chief Government Elon Musk mentioned there have been “some points” with the set of Starlink satellites launched Feb. 27, confirming business hypothesis during the last a number of days primarily based on the altering orbits of the spacecraft.

“Lot of recent expertise in Starlink V2, so we’re experiencing some points, as anticipated,” he wrote. “Some sats can be deorbited, others can be examined completely earlier than elevating altitude above Area Station.”

The 21 satellites, collectively referred to as Group 6-1, began elevating their orbits a pair days after being deployed into orbits practically 370 kilometers excessive. Nevertheless, the satellites halted their orbit elevating just a few days later, sustaining orbits at altitudes of about 380 kilometers. The Worldwide Area Station is an orbit between 415 and 420 kilometers excessive.

Beginning round March 15, their orbital altitude began to lower at various charges: most regularly, however no less than two extra steeply, descending to about 365 kilometers. All 21 stay in orbit, however that uncommon conduct prompted hypothesis of issues with the satellites.

The tweet by Musk was the primary remark by him or SpaceX confirming issues with the satellites, though neither he nor the corporate have elaborated on what these issues are.

The Group 6-1 satellites are the primary of what SpaceX calls “V2 Mini” variations of Starlink satellites. They’re considerably bigger than the first-generation Starlink satellites that SpaceX has launched greater than 4,000 of so far.

The spacecraft function improved phased-array antennas and use of E-band frequencies for backhaul that offers every satellite tv for pc 4 instances the capability of earlier spacecraft. Additionally they have new higher-performance electrical thrusters that use argon, moderately than krypton, propellant to cut back prices.

SpaceX hasn’t launched specifics in regards to the V2 Mini satellites, however a design referred to as “F9-2” in filings the corporate made with the Federal Communications Fee as a part of its software for the second-generation constellation describes a spacecraft with a mass of 800 kilograms and a pair of photo voltaic arrays 12.8 meters lengthy. First-generation satellites weigh about 300 kilograms and have a single array eight meters lengthy.

Because the identify suggests, the V2 Mini spacecraft are scaled-down variations of the final word V2 Starlink satellites, which is able to weigh about 2,000 kilograms every with photo voltaic arrays 20 meters lengthy. These spacecraft will launch on SpaceX’s Starship car, whereas the V2 Mini spacecraft are sufficiently small to be launched on Falcon 9 rockets.

The FCC partially authorized SpaceX’s second-generation, or Gen2, Starlink constellation in December, permitting the corporate to launch 7,500 of its proposed 30,000 satellites into orbits starting from 525 to 535 kilometers. SpaceX has since launched 4 units of “Group 5” satellites into Gen2 orbits approved by the FCC, however these seem like successfully equivalent to earlier Starlink satellites.

One other Group 5 launch is scheduled for as quickly as March 24 from Cape Canaveral Area Pressure Station in Florida. A second set of V2 Mini satellites, Group 6-2, is scheduled to launch no sooner than March 30, additionally from Cape Canaveral, however it’s unsure if the problems with the V2 Mini satellites in orbit will delay that launch.


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