A rocket carrying 21 new-generation Starlink satellites was successfully launched into orbit at 1813 EST yesterday from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The flight, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, saw the Starlink internet service go through two milestones: It was the first launch of its second-generation satellite, and the project’s total launches exceeded 4,000 satellites.
Starlink is a division of SpaceX, the company founded by Elon Musk. It provides fast internet connections broadcast from the sky, unlike traditional connections, which use subsea pipelines and underground fiber optic cables to bring broadband to homes and businesses.
Its services have become of particular interest to Ukraine, which has seen traditional internet connections by Russia. In December 2022, the US Federal Communications Commission granted Starlink approval to field up to 7,500 new satellites.
The V2 Mini versions, which are smaller than the original Starlink versions, have four times the capacity to serve users of fast internet, according to the manufacturer. This is due to having a more efficient array of antennas and using radio frequencies between 71 and 86 GHz – called the E band, According to SpaceX. The company said the new satellite “Represents a step forward in Starlink capability”.
The newer satellites will orbit Earth at an altitude of less than 600 kilometers, which means they will eventually disintegrate and re-enter the planet’s atmosphere, limiting the number remaining around Earth as debris. Astronomers have previously raised concerns that large constellations from satellites will affect the ability to see stars in the night sky.
The lower orbit also has benefits over geostationary satellites, which have been the main providers of satellite Internet communications to date, says Doug Madurey of Kintech, a company that monitors Internet performance. Geostationary satellites orbit the Earth at higher altitudes — about 35,800 kilometers — which increases latency, or the time it takes to send and receive information on the Internet. Low-orbit satellites like Starlink give lower latency by using more satellites, Madhuri says, closer to the surface.
Sign up for our free Launchpad newsletter for a journey across the galaxy and beyond, every Friday