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SpaceX launches sixty Starlink satellites on thrice-flown rocket, sticks landing (space.com)
87 points by kerng 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments

There's an episode of Stargate SG1 ("Absolute Power" in Season 4), whereby one of the main characters in imbued with alien knowledge and leads a program to launch a constellation of satellites, ostensibly as protection for Earth against hostile invaders, however it turns out to be a massive weapons system used for geopolitical advantage.

Starlink is incredible and ambitious, but that was the first thing that came to mind.

I'm convinced that Elon Musk and his whole agenda is to get off the planet before we destroy it. Tesla to buy himself time, SpaceX to get him a lift home.

Isn't that a common trope? (Was also used in one of Marvel's Avengers movies if I'm not mistaken)

Yes. I believe it was a Stark Industries product called Iron Shield.

With a name like that, Elon Musk is bound to go "Muahahahaha" at some point. :D

Interesting tidbit: the satellites were simply shoved out into space on the orbit they were already on without any effort to separate them or spread them out nicely along predefined orbits. It's funny how I imagined this whole thing as a giant orchestrated space ballet and instead it's more like throwing a handful of sand into the winds and wait to see where they end up.

I guess they will maneuver to their respective orbits as soon as they separated enough to do so safely. But yes, there's something delightfully simple about just shoving the bunch of them out there and wait.

Yes, they have thrusters and they will go from ~440km to ~550km orbit themselves

> Krypton ion thrusters activate in about 3 hours to raise orbit https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1131782570864066560

Lots of info here: https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/brfbic/rspacex_star...

There’s such beauty in that level of planning and simplicity.

They would never be able to fit 60 satellites with the typical fairings and launchers and (expensive) mechanisms which are typically used to deploy these things.

But they needed the density. So someone was crazy enough to say, “Well, why can’t we just shove them out the back once we’re up there?”

“Really Tom, just, you know, give ‘em a wee push and let them roll on out?”

“How many more can you fit if we build them to handle some small impacts and self deploy from a single drop point?”

“5 if we have to pick and place them. Maybe 20 if not?”

(While walking out of the room) “Make it 40 and you have a deal.”

“Jesus, why not just ask for 60?”

(Stopping at the door) “You know that will save us 6 launches! 60 then.”

Why don't I see more discussion about ablation cascade, aka Kessler syndrome? That seems like a serious concern.

Every launch has to account for de-orbiting and debris avoidance. In this case, satellites will be intentionally de-orbited when their Krypton fuel gets low and they can no longer station keep. The Starlink site has a quick blurb about it:

"Starlink is on the leading edge of on-orbit debris mitigation, meeting or exceeding all regulatory and industry standards."

"At end of life, the satellites will utilize their on-board propulsion system to deorbit over the course of a few months. In the unlikely event the propulsion system becomes inoperable, the satellites will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere within 1-5 years, significantly less than the hundreds or thousands of years required at higher altitudes."

I cannot imagine how complex it would be to simultaneously track each significant piece of space trash.

After doing some Googlin', I found this cool interactive map


There are others too.

Crazy engineering!

They're low enough that junk simply can't stay aloft very long—one to five years is what they predict for a Starlink satellite with failed thrusters.

thats a huge time variance.

They're planning to have satellites in several different orbits, ranging from 340km to 1150km. The first phase of launches will all be to ~550km orbits.

They should fix their orbits shortly.

It'll become the latter, orchestrated space ballet, once they get far enough to safely startup their ion engines.


History in the making

I have been posting a lot of SpaceX kudos lately, but they absolutely deserve it. I wonder if Tesla were private, away from the watering mouths of Wall Street greed, it could do a lot better.

Being public isn't the primary problem for Tesla.

Tesla would do a lot better if they had a world-class industrial CEO like Alan Mulally or the equivalent running the show. Tesla needs their Gwynne Shotwell. Musk should focus on product, technology, evangelizing, etc. Tesla needs more Tim Cook right now, pushing manufacturing efficiencies and process perfection, than it needs a Steve Jobs running the show. There is no great reason Musk needs to be CEO of Tesla, his particular skill is elsewhere.

Manufacturing/logistics companies are inherently long term investments. It's not possible to get immediate profits from them. I opine that things would be more or less the same even if Gwynne or Tim Cook took the helm. What may miss without Elon is the coolness factor. I know it sounds weird but much of Tesla exists today because of the excitement around what the Tesla team does with the car next.

Always compelling to see people who aren't Elon, Tim, Alan, Steve, or Gwynne describing what large corporations need to do.

Seriously this. A Tesla wouldn’t be a Tesla if not for Elon at the helm.

They’re producing nearly 1,000/day at this point. I’d say they’re in for quite a nice Q2.

Once Giga3 turns on (optimistically targeted to be by the end of the year), they’ll be producing at a rate of over half a million cars a year. Hard to believe they’ll have the battery capacity for that (37.5GW)

Yes, he needs a few clones of himself to help run the show.

(Or at least really good impersonators.)

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