Musk Details Upcoming Starlink 2.0 Satellites
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently took a break from all of his Twitter negging to talk about the upcoming deployment of Starlink 2.0. On an episode of the YouTube series “Everyday Astronaut,” Musk confirms that the company has built the first Starlink 2.0 satellite, which is much larger and more powerful than the originals. In fact, the Starship mega-rocket (above) is the only way SpaceX will be able to get Starlink 2.0 into orbit.
In the past few years, SpaceX has rocketed ahead to become the single largest satellite operator in the world with more than 4,400 total units. This has allowed it to provide satellite internet access to a wide swath of the globe at much higher speeds and lower latency than traditional satellite internet.
The new satellite is 22 feet (7 meters) long and one and a quarter tons (2,755 pounds or 1,250 kg). The current Starlink satellite flying on the Falcon 9 is a mere 573 pounds (260 kg). The advantage of the smaller gen 1 design is that SpaceX can launch up to 60 of them on every Falcon 9, which has allowed it to rapidly build up the megaconstellation and offer services on the ground.
SpaceX has approval for 12,000 satellites in its constellation, but it is unclear if that will include any of the new Starlink 2.0 models. That might depend on the future of Starship, which hasn’t had a test flight for a year. According to Musk, the Falcon 9 platform used for current Starlink launches “has neither the volume nor the mass orbit capability required for Starlink 2.0.” He also explains that the new satellites will be “almost an order of magnitude better than a Starlink 1.0.”
Starship is the key to several of SpaceX’s future plans. It will be adapted as the Human Landing System (HLS) for NASA’s upcoming Artemis moon landings, and it’s the key to Musk’s dream of colonizing Mars. No surprise, the timeline for that endeavor is constantly shifting as Starship development lags. The FAA is working on a review of Starship’s environmental impact, and that report is now expected to come out in the latter half of the year. At that point, SpaceX just has to finish testing and start building the rocket, along with its Super Heavy first stage. But that’s all easier said than done.
NASA has expressed some concern that the larger Starlink 2.0 satellites could pose a greater danger to orbiting assets than the smaller ones. There have been a number of close calls, but the company signed an agreement with NASA last year that will hopefully avoid that. Astronomers also have objected to Starlink as the reflective satellites can ruin delicate observations of space. Musk didn’t say anything about mitigating the reflections from the new satellites, but they could prove even more damaging to astronomy due to their larger size.