SpaceX’s Starlink internet service will pass a significant milestone this month, with the company’s constellation surpassing 5,000 active satellites in low-Earth orbit after the launch of two Falcon 9 rockets.
The first Falcon 9 will launch from SLC-40 at CCSFS in Florida on October 28 at 7:13 p.m. ET. The rocket will bring 23 Starlink v2-mini satellites to a stable circular orbit using an unknown booster. The launch will mark Falcon 9’s 224th total landing and 49th Starlink mission this year, and the rocket’s 268th mission of its operational life. The booster will land on Just Read The Instructions, one of SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships. The satellites will deploy at 284 by 293 kilometers in low-Earth orbit, then stabilize at a circular orbit of 530 kilometers.
SpaceX has already launched over 5,000 satellites, but over the years, some have failed. The two launches will bring Starlink’s constellation to 5,011 active satellites. Currently, there are 4,400 operational satellites in orbit. There are 600 more already deployed that need to rise to 530 kilometers to be considered active.
The large number of satellites in its constellation means Starlink has a wide lead over rivals who are looking to launch their own satellite-based internet service, including Amazon’s Project Kuiper. Satellite-based service is able to reach places where traditional internet or even cellular can’t get to, allowing for broader online access.
The second Falcon 9 launch is scheduled to take an additional 22 Starlink v2-mini satellites to low-Earth orbit on October 28 at 11:16 p.m. PT. It will take off from SLC-4E from VSFB. This will be the most satellites SpaceX has launched on a Group 7 mission. The satellites will deploy at an orbit of 286 by 296 kilometers and rise to an operational orbit of 530 kilometers. The booster will land on Of Course I Still Love You, SpaceX’s drone ship in the West Coast.
On October 5, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned that Starlink decommissioned constellation satellites re-entering the atmosphere could carry a risk of injury or death to people on the ground. The FAA mentioned SpaceX specifically as it has the most satellites in orbit, and the agency estimates it carries 85% of the risk to people on the ground as well as places, spacecrafts, and other satellites.
SpaceX has since asked the FAA to correct its report, calling it “deeply flawed” and “preposterous, unjustified, and inaccurate,” according to CNN.
“To be clear, SpaceX’s satellites are designed and built to fully demise during atmospheric reentry during disposal at end of life, and they do so,” said SpaceX in a letter to the FAA.