SpaceX plans to launch 170 of its Starlink internet small satellites (smallsats) in three launches in August, the largest number of launches in one month in its quest to assemble a superconstellation consisting of some 42,000 smallsats in low Earth orbit (LEO) by 2025.
On Friday, SpaceX also said it's now seeing "extraordinary demand" from potential customers of its satellite internet service. It reported "nearly 700,000 individuals" across the U.S. indicated interest in the company's coming service."
Because of this, SpaceX has asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) if it could increase the number of authorized user terminals (AUTs) to five million from one million. AUTs are the devices consumers will use to connect to Starlink's space-based internet network.
The first mission this month scheduled for August 6, v1.0 L9, will see a SpaceX Falcon 9 B5 launch vehicle loft 57 Starlink smallsats to an orbit of 550 km. All of these smallsats are outfitted with the new sunshade visor, an experimental coating that makes them less reflective. Astronomers have loudly complained the polished metal surfaces of the Starlinks now in orbit hinder accurate observations of the Universe by creating unwanted glare.
Along for this ride will be BlackSky Global-7 and Global-8, the fifth and sixth satellites developed by Spaceflight Industries, Inc. based in Virginia. The company eventually intends to deploy a 60-satellite constellation offering one meter resolution photographs to interested buyers.
Spaceflight Industries has two businesses: BlackSky Global, a geospatial intelligence service, and LeoStella, a joint venture with Thales Alenia Space that makes smallsats.
Sometime in mid-August, SpaceX plans to launch mission v1.0 L10 where a Falcon 9 B5 will carry 58 Starlink smallsats into LEO. In addition, the mission will see ride sharing by three Planet Labs Earth-observation satellites: SkySats 19 to 21. SpaceX orbited the last five SkySats (SkySats 14 to 18) starting December 2018.
Starlink mission v1.0 L11 will carry 60 Starlinks into LEO. The next mission, v1.0 L12, in September will loft the same number of satellites.
Back in June, Starlink said it will begin offering high-speed, low latency and low cost commercial broadband internet service in the northern United States and southern Canada before the end of this year. It will expand the service to near global coverage by 2021.
A private beta test of Starlink's internet service will take place within the month. This will be "followed by public beta testing."
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said Starlink's internet speed will rival existing Earth-bound services. He claimed the Starlink network will have latency below 20 milliseconds. Musk said this means somebody can play a fast-response video game at a competitive level.
From May 24, 2019 when it orbited its first 60 smallsats, SpaceX has placed 538 smallsats into LEO in nine successful missions. The last Starlink mission on June 13 (v1.0 L8) saw a SpaceX Falcon 9 B5 launch vehicle deploy 58 v 1.0 smallsats.