No one ever accused SpaceX founder Elon Musk of thinking small, but this latest plans represent a massive step forward for manking.
SpaceX has accomplished some incredible things over its short industry, including but limited to its cargo delivery contracts with NASA, its aims to land a colony on Mars, and its successful tests of landing a first-stage rocket after launch in a development that could revolutionize space travel. But a new ambitious plan to create a network of satellites bringing high-speed internet access to the entire world shows that Musk still has some very big ideas.
The company is hoping to launch a bunch of satellites that would orbit at a range three times farther out that then International Space Station. The company filed an application with the CEO that described a plan to put more than 4,000 satellites in orbit, or four times the number of active satellites around Earth right now.
SpaceX’s goal would be to launch satellites in 2019, and gradually increase the number of launches until all of them are in space by 2024. SpaceX plans to do this via reusable Falcon 9 rockets. If the move is successful, satellite internet service alone would be profitable enough to fund a mission to Mars.
Here is a statement from SpaceX about a recent similar mission to launch satellites in to orbit on behalf of Iridium.
Falcon 9 rocket will deliver
10 satellites to
Earth orbit for Iridium
, a global leader in
mobile voice and data satellite
The 10 satellites are the first of at least 70 satellites
that SpaceX will be launching
generation global satellite constellation, Iridium
SpaceX is targeting
Launch Complex 4E at
Vandenberg Air Force Base
9:54:39 am PST or 5
The satellites will begin deployment about
an hour after launch.
A backup launch o
pportunity on January 15 opens at
9:49:04 am PST or 5:49:04 pm UTC.
Following stage separation, the first stage of Falcon 9 will attempt
landing on the “
Just Read the
that will be
The payloads for this launch are the first 10
satellites. Iridium NEXT
will replace the world’s
largest commercial satellite network of low
earth orbit satellites in what will be one of the largest “tech
upgrades” in history. Iridium has partn
ered with Thales Alenia Space for the manufacturing, assembly
and testing of 81 Iridium NEXT satellites, at least 70 of which will be launched by SpaceX. The process of
replacing the satellites one
one in a constellation of this size and scale has neve
r been completed
Iridium NEXT will enable the development of new and innovative products and solutions across Iridium’s
vast partner ecosyst
Iridium Certus, the
platform enabled by Irid
ium NEXT, will deliver faster speeds and higher throughputs across multiple
industry verticals. A service of this quality and value is unprecedented in the industry, and is poised to
disrupt the current market status quo. Currently, the service is set to
be commercially available in 2017
and is undergoing testing on Iridium’s existing network.
Iridium’s primary launch campaign consists of seven SpaceX Falcon 9 launches, deploying ten Iridium
NEXT satellites at a time. These 70 Iridium NEXT satellites are
scheduled to be deployed by early 2018.
is the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe.
connections between people, organizations and assets to and from
Official SpaceX Iridium
(all times approximate)
Launch Conductor takes launch readiness poll
1 (rocket grade kerosene)
liquid oxygen) loading
begins engine chill prior to launch
Range Control Officer (USAF) verifies range is go for launch
SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
ze propellant tanks
Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
Falcon 9 liftoff
Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
stage engine shutdown/main engine cutoff (MECO)
1st and 2nd stages separate
2nd stage engine starts
1st stage landing
2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO
2nd stage engine restarts
2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO
Iridium NEXT satellites begin deployment
Iridium NEXT satellites end deployment
Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
SpaceX’s Space Launch Complex
4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base has a long history dating back to the
early 1960s. Originally an Atlas launch pad activated in 1962, 4E was in active use until a 2005 Titan IV
launch. SpaceX’s groundbreaking was in July 2011, and the pad was completed in N
ovember 2012 in just
17 months. SpaceX took advantage of some existing infrastructure, but implemented extensive
modifications and reconstruction of the pad. Part of the renovation included tearing down a 30+ story
mobile service tower and a 20+ story umbi
lical tower, and 97
of these units were recycled.
The complex consists of a concrete launch pad/apron and a flame exhaust duct. Surrounding the pad are
fuel storage tanks and the integration hangar. Before launch, Falcon 9’s stages, SpaceX’s
fairing and the
launch payload are housed inside the hangar. A crane/lift system moves Falcon into a transporte
erector system and the fairing and its payload are mated to the rocket. The vehicle is rolled from hangar
to launch pad shortly before launch t
o minimize exposure to the elements