SpaceX has launched two testbed satellites in aid of the company’s planned Starlink Internet-via-satellite service. Although still in its very early stages of development, once operational, it’s hoped the service will supply high-speed internet to underdeveloped regions.
On February 22 at 14:17 GMT (09:17 EST), SpaceX launched the PAZ satellite for Hisdesat aboard a Falcon 9. Following the deployment of the primary payload, two secondary payloads were deployed. SpaceX revealed before the launch that the secondary payloads were testbed satellites, designated Tintin A & B for the company’s Starlink Internet-via-satellite service.
The two mini-refrigerator-sized satellites were deployed into the same 317-mile-high orbit as the PAZ satellite. Tintin A & B then utilised onboard propulsion systems to boost themselves into an orbit approximately 1,125 kilometres (700 miles) above Earth. In a Tweet following the deployment of Tintin A & B, SpaceX founder and CEO, Elon Musk revealed that the satellites would attempt to broadcast “hello world” the next day as they passed over Los Angeles.
In an original FCC filing made in 2016, the Starlink constellation called for 4,425 individual satellites that would broadcast high-speed internet in Ku-band and Ka-band frequencies. In 2017, SpaceX filed an extended constellation proposal with an additional 7,518 satellites broadcasting in V-band frequencies.
In a proposal submitted to the FCC for approval, SpaceX explained that the combination of Ku-, Ka- and V-band broadcasting “would provide both diverse geographic coverage and the capacity to support a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental and professional users in the United States and globally.”
With almost 11,000 individual satellites, Starlink would be the largest satellite constellation ever constructed. If SpaceX managed to pull off this massive undertaking, it will also likely be the largest constellation for decades to come.
Image Credit: SpaceX