After two eerily quiet months, SpaceX is finally set to resume launching Starlink satellites next month. The company has scheduled two missions in August from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base to deploy the next series of internet-beaming satellites into low Earth orbits.
The first mission, carrying a full load of 60 Starlink satellites, will launch atop workhorse Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than August 10. A second full-launch is tentatively scheduled on August 16.
The most recent Starlink mission was launched on June 30 as part of a SpaceX Transporter-2 satellite rideshare flight, which sent three satellites into a polar orbit. The last time SpaceX launched a full batch of 60 satellites was May 26. Until then, the company had been launching two to three Starlink missions every month in 2021.
Launch pace slowed down significantly in June because Starlink had completed constructing its first orbital “shell” of 1,600 satellites after its May 26 launch. This first shell of constellation was large enough to provide basic broadband service in most parts of the globe. About 200 satellites from the May 25 launch are still on their way to reaching desired altitudes.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in June that Starlink is ready to “achieve continuous global coverage” as soon as September.
The early phases of the Starlink network involves launching about 4,400 satellites into five orbital shells in low Earth orbit. The August 10 mission, named “Starlink 2-1,” will begin populating a new orbital shell. After that, SpaceX is expected to launch on average one fully loaded Starlink mission per month over the next year to grow the Starlink constellation.
SpaceX has the Federal Communications Commission’s approval to eventually launch and operate up to 12,000 Starlink satellites. That’s nearly ten times more than all other commercial satellites currently in low Earth orbit combined.
Starlink has launched beta service in 11 countries in North America, Europe and Oceania. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in May the internet service had received more than half a million preorders worldwide.