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SpaceX's plan to provide broadband access will take a big step forward Thursday night as the Elon Musk-led firm prepares to launch five dozen small satellites on a single rocket. They will eventually become part of a network of potentially thousands of internet-beaming spacecraft.
The launch was initially scheduled for Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, but was scrubbed due to high upper-level winds. SpaceX will instead attempt to launch Thursday night at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time. After the launch, Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX plans to land the rocket's first-stage booster on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean.
Satellites - Pounds - Rocket - Stage - Hour
The 60 satellites, which weigh about 500 pounds each, are expected to deploy from the rocket's second stage about an hour after liftoff, when they reach a point about 273 miles above the Earth. The satellites will then propel themselves with tiny ion thrusters toward their final destination—an altitude of about 341 miles.
Together, the satellites weigh about 18.5 tons, marking the heaviest load a Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rocket has ever carried, Musk said Wednesday during a pre-launch call with reporters.
Year - SpaceX - Demonstration - Satellites - Starlink
Last year, SpaceX launched two demonstration satellites for its proposed Starlink broadband satellite constellation. The company has said those satellites, known as Tintin A and B, communicated with ground stations on Earth and remain in operation.
The satellites set to launch Thursday, however, are a bit different. Musk tweeted last week that these are "production design" satellites, rather than the demonstration versions that launched last year.
Company - Service - Immediately—Musk - Service - Satellites
But don't expect the company to offer service immediately—Musk said service could begin with 400 satellites, but 800 would be needed for "significant" operational capability. SpaceX has said it plans to provide coverage in the U.S. and around the world.
Musk on Wednesday tried to tamp down expectations, saying Starlink satellite development...
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