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SpaceX launches 'mini' Gen2 Starlinks

Group 6-1 of satellites are new leap in SpaceX's internet Constellation

Falcon 9 Rocket takes off from Cape Canaveral, Photo Credit: Ben Cooper

SpaceX launched Falcon9 v1.2 FT Block 5 rocket #B1076.3 launched 21 Starlink second generation 'V2 Mini' satellites (Starlink-74 / Starlink 6-1) into low orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC -40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, on February 27, 2023, at 23:13:50 UTC. After separation, the B1076 first stage landed on the droneship Marmac 302 A Shortfall of Gravitas, Stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, and the fairing shells would be retrieved by the support vessel Doug , 637 km off the coast of Florida. The first stage previously flew two missions, CRS-26 and OneWeb 16.

Launch campaign Infographics

The Group 6-1 satellites were released into an initial orbit of 373 km x 365 km at 43 degrees of inclination. From there, they rose to their final operational orbit at about 540 km, using electric Hall-effect thrusters, which use argon instead of the krypton in Starlink V1.5 models. The satellites were released using a new separation system, consisting of an “H” shaped structure hinged on a lever-like hinge, with a crushable aluminum core damper that is attached to the second stage, instead of individual clamps. used in previous models. The release, recorded on video by a camera on top of the mast, occurred between 00:17:45,660 UTC and 00:18:35,600 UTC on the 28th.



The first generation Starlinks had the factory designation 'Starlink-5800', while the 'mini' are called 'Starlink-30000'. The “V2 Mini”, which is a smaller precursor to the ultimate V2. Although smaller than a V2, they are around three times heavier than the current V1.5 model (at 307 kg), at around 775 kg (other sources quote 810 kg) – which is why only 21 were transported. The 'mini' test the design of version 2, whose complete copies will be launched by the Starship spacecraft being developed by the company.


New generation of Starlinks

At the end of November last year, the FCC granted partial approval for the Starlink Gen2 constellation, which had been under review since May 2020. Just a week or two later, in multiple filings asking the FCC to expedite Special Temporary Authority (STA) requests. that would allow it to test and fully communicate with its first next-generation satellite prototypes, SpaceX said it would start launching Gen2 satellites before the end of December 2022. SpaceX also wanted permission to activate frequency beacons ('beacons') very high frequency (VHF) to be installed on all Gen2 satellites. These beacons would serve as a backup for the TT&C telemetry, tracking and control antennas and would lessen the chances of a total loss of control,

Pile of mounted satellites before being enclosed in the head hood

Due to FCC license restrictions, SpaceX is not permitted to launch or operate any Starlink Gen2 satellites outside a narrow range of altitudes (475-580 km). After launch, Generation 2 satellites will likely take about two to three months to reach these operational orbits, only after which SpaceX can start using them. Since the FCC approved most of the December STA requests, the range of Starlink Gen2 launches and in-orbit testing should be limited.


Support bar that replaces the retaining clips that secure the satellites in the stack

The Starship-optimized Starlink V2 satellites weigh around 1,250 kg and measure approximately 6.5 by 2.7 meters. According to the October 2022 FCC filing, Starlink V2 Mini satellites measure 4.1 by 2.7 meters. SpaceX says the Starlink V2 Mini has a pair of solar panels totaling 116 square meters. Assuming that the V2 Mini satellites are approximately as electrically efficient as the V1.5 version and use equally efficient solar panels, this indicates that the set could offer about three to four times more usable bandwidth per satellite. Assuming that SpaceX has again found a way to use all of the Falcon 9's available performance, each rocket should be capable of carrying 22 "V2 Mini" satellites into low orbit.


Aluminum damper brick to brake support arm

Among other enhancements, V2 minis are equipped with new argon Hall thrusters for on orbit maneuvering, Developed by SpaceX engineers, they have 2.4x the thrust and 1.5x the specific impulse of our first gen thrusters. This will also be the first time ever that argon Hall thrusters are operated in space

Argon Hall thruster tech specs:

- 170 mN thrust

- 2500 s specific impulse

- 50% total efficiency

- 4.2 kW power

- 2.1 kg mass

- Center mounted cathode


Starlink

The batch of satellites is called Group 6-1 , and is part of “shell” 6; the target orbit is circular, with an altitude of 540 km and the devices were first released in a group in an initial orbit and then separated individually. More than 2,000 Starlink satellites are currently in orbit and functioning, about half of SpaceX's planned first-generation network of 4,408 units. The satellites will be distributed in five different orbital “shells” at different altitudes and inclinations, from which the company intends to launch up to 42,000 units. The network transmits high-speed, low-latency internet signals around the world, reaching consumers, underserved communities and other potential users such as the US military. SpaceX says the network is already available in 32 countries.


launch Timeline

All times Approximate hh min ss Event

  • 00:00:00 Lift-off

  • 00:01:12 Max Q (maximum moment of mechanical stress on the rocket)

  • 00:02:26 Cutting of the 1st stage main engines (MECO)

  • 00:02:30 Separate 1st and 2nd stages (staging)

  • 00:02:37 2nd stage engine ignition

  • 00:03:06 Fairing Jettison

  • 00:06:08 1st stage re-entry ignition

  • 00:06:27 1st stage re-entry ignition ends

  • 00:07:59 1st stage landing ignition

  • 00:08:22 1st stage landing

  • 00:08:37 2nd stage engine cut (SECO-1)

  • 00:54:22 2nd stage engine ignition (SES-2)

  • 00:54:24 2nd stage engine cut (SECO-2)

  • 01:04:36 Starlink satellite release



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