SpaceX launches first satellites for Musk’s Starlink Internet service

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket with a payload of 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network, lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday, May 23, 2019. (Florida Today via AP)
Updated 24 May 2019

SpaceX launches first satellites for Musk’s Starlink Internet service

  • The rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 10:30 p.m. local time
  • The Falcon 9 was due to release its cargo of 60 satellites into orbit about an hour after Thursday’s launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: High-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX company launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida on Thursday on a mission to carry the first batch of five dozen small satellites into low-Earth orbit for his new Starlink Internet service.
The rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 10:30 p.m. local time (0230 GMT Friday), marking a milestone in a global enterprise aimed at generating cash for Musk’s larger ambitions in space.
The launch came a week after two back-to-back countdowns for the mission were scrubbed — once due to high winds over the Cape and the next night in order to update satellite software and “triple-check” all systems.
The Falcon 9 was due to release its cargo of 60 satellites into orbit about an hour after Thursday’s launch. Each one weighs 500 pounds (227 kg), making it the heaviest payload for any SpaceX rocket to date.
Those satellites are designed to form the initial phase a planned constellation capable of beaming signals for high-speed Internet service from space to paying customers around the globe.
Musk has said he sees the new Starlink venture as an important new revenue stream for his California-based Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, whose launch service income he expects to top out at around $3 billion a year.

Speaking to reporters last week, Musk said that makes Starlink pivotal in helping pay for his larger goals of developing a new spacecraft to fly paying customers to the moon and for eventually trying to colonize Mars.
“We think this is a key stepping stone on the way toward establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon,” said Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who is also chief executive officer of automaker Tesla Inc.
At least 12 launches carrying similar payloads are needed to achieve constant Internet coverage of most of the world, Musk said. Starlink is only currently authorized for operations in the United States.
Musk faces stiff competition. In February, Airbus SE-backed OneWeb launched its own clutch of satellites, while LeoSat Enterprises and Canada’s Telesat are also working to build data networks.
In each network, the tiny satellites orbit closer to Earth than traditional communications satellites, a technological shift made possible by advances in laser technology and computer chips.
Musk said SpaceX would begin approaching customers later this year or next year. As many as 2,000 satellites will be launched per year, with the ultimate objective of placing up to 12,000 into orbit.


NASA finds Indian moon lander with help of amateur space enthusiast

Updated 03 December 2019

NASA finds Indian moon lander with help of amateur space enthusiast

  • NASA released an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that showed the site of the spacecraft’s impact
  • A version of the picture was marked up to show the associated debris field

WASHINGTON: India’s Vikram lunar lander, which crashed on its final approach to the Moon’s surface in September, has been found thanks in part to the sleuthing efforts of an amateur space enthusiast.
NASA made the announcement on Monday, releasing an image taken by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that showed the site of the spacecraft’s impact (September 7 in India and September 6 in the US).
A version of the picture was marked up to show the associated debris field, with parts scattered over almost two dozen locations spanning several kilometers.
In a statement, NASA said it released a mosaic image of the site on September 26 (but taken on September 17), inviting the public to compare it with images of the same area before the crash to find signs of the lander.
The first person to come up with a positive identification was Shanmuga “Shan” Subramanian, a 33-year-old IT professional from Chennai, who said that NASA’s inability to find the lander on its own had sparked his interest.
“I had side-by-side comparison of those two images on two of my laptops ... on one side there was the old image, and another side there was the new image released by NASA,” he said, adding he was helped by fellow Twitter and Reddit users.
“It was quite hard, but (I) spent some effort,” said the self-professed space nerd, finally announcing his discovery on Twitter on October 3.
NASA then performed additional searches in the area and officially announced the finding almost two months later.
“NASA has to be 100% sure before they can go public, and that’s the reason they waited to confirm it, and even I would have done the same,” said Subramanian.
Blasting off in July, emerging Asian giant India had hoped with its Chandrayaan-2 (“Moon Vehicle 2“) mission to become just the fourth country after the United States, Russia and regional rival China to make a successful Moon landing, and the first on the lunar south pole.
The main spacecraft, which remains in orbit around the Moon, dropped the unmanned lander Vikram for a descent that would take five days, but the probe went silent just 2.1 kilometers above the surface.
Days after the failed landing, the Indian Space Research Organization said it had located the lander, but hadn’t been able to establish communication.