First SpaceX internet satellites now set to launch Wednesday
Elon Musk's rocket company has been working on getting satellite broadband off the ground for years. Now the Falcon 9 is set to launch the first test.
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The main payload for the launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California will be the Spanish government's Paz satellite, designed to capture imagery of the Earth down to the single-meter scale. But there had been unconfirmed reports for several weeks now from space industry sources like NASASpaceFlight.com that a secondary passenger on the flight would be the Starlink demonstration setup.
SpaceX itself has been relatively mum about the debut of its Starlink satellites, and about the entire program itself. However, a letter from SpaceX to the Federal Communications Commission, posted to the FCC website Monday, makes it pretty clear what will be aboard the Falcon 9 when it launches.
The letter refers to two satellites, called Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, that will be launched as a secondary payload on the Paz mission. The FCC granted SpaceX a license in November to launch this pair of satellites as part of a test mission. In its application, the company describes the test objectives:
"In addition to proving out the development of the satellite bus and related subsystems, the test program for the Microsat-2a and -2b spacecraft will also validate the design of a phased array broadband antenna communications platform."
Putting that all together: SpaceX is testing internet broadband satellites that will be launched along with the Paz satellite.
The launch had originally been scheduled for Saturday, but was postponed to Sunday and then again until Wednesday to allow "additional time to perform final checkouts of upgraded fairing," according to a tweet from SpaceX.
A release from Vandenberg confirmed that the launch is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:17 a.m. PT and that "the Falcon 9 and payload remain healthy."
SpaceX declined to make an official comment about the broadband project prototypes.
Even so, Joy Dunn, the company's "senior manager of new product introduction," did drop this emoji-based hint earlier this week on Twitter:
If that pans out, spreading internet memes about Mars could eventually help us pay to get there. It's almost poetic.
Originally published Feb. 13 at 11:49 a.m. PT. Update, Feb. 16 at 11:10 a.m. PT: Added that the launch date changed to Sunday and noted the endorsement from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Update, Feb. 17 at 8:54 p.m. PT: Changes launch date to Wednesday.
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