Ready or not, the next generation of Starlink is coming.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed new information about the company’s next-generation Starlink “Gen2” satellites, stating they will be four times heavier than the current model during an interview with YouTuber Tim Dodd, also known as Everyday Astronaut.
Large batches of the next-gen satellite — SpaceX typically launches about 50 current-gen satellites at a time — will likely require the power of the company’s upcoming Starship launch vehicle to reach orbit.
So get ready for the next phase of Elon Musk’s plans.
Starlink 2.0 will be ‘almost an order of magnitude more capable’
During the on-site interview at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, Musk revealed that the private space company has built at least one functional Starlink Gen2 satellite prototype, which is currently being stored in Boca Chica. The interview is viewable in the embedded video below, with Musk starting to talk about Starship 2.0 around the nine-minute mark.
Musk explained that the next-generation satellite will measure roughly 23 ft (7 m), weigh roughly 1.25 tons (roughly 2,750 lb), and will be “almost an order of magnitude more capable” than current “Starlink 1” satellites. But Musk didn’t specify whether he was referring to bandwidth or throughput. With Starlink 1.0 estimated to have a total bandwidth of 18 Gbps, that means the next-gen satellites could add up to 160 Gbps to the constellation.
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The SpaceX CEO also said “Starlink 2.0” would be roughly four times heavier than V1.5 and just under five times heavier than V1.0. Starship is estimated to have the capacity to loft payloads of 150 tons to low-Earth orbit, the launch vehicle will carry 110 to 120 satellites, with each weighing roughly 1,250 kilograms, according to a Teslarati report. Musk confirmed this in his interview, saying each one will weigh “about one and a quarter tons”. As a point of reference, Starlink V1.0 weighs roughly 260 kilograms.
SpaceX’s Starlink will help fund its Mars ambitions
SpaceX’s Gen2 satellites are part of the company’s bid, submitted to the FCC in May 2020, to send an additional 30,000 Starlink satellites into orbit. That bid is still being considered amid reports that Starlink satellites could raise the risk of space collisions and impede the capacity of the world’s astronomers to detect dangerous asteroids.
SpaceX has so far sent more than 2,000 Starlink satellites into orbit since its first Starlink launch in May 2019, and more than 1,600 of those are operational. The company has permission from the FCC to launch 12,000 more, and it awaits the FCC’s response, in addition to the orbital maiden launch of Starship, which could happen this summer. And once that happens, Starship will be nearly ready to launch Starlink 2.0 satellites.
Last month, Musk announced that two-thirds of all active satellites in orbit will be Starlink satellites within 18 months. He also added that profits from the company’s Starlink service would help it develop Starship to achieve its ultimate ambition of reaching Mars. Fingers crossed that realistic deadlines for a mission to the Red Planet are fast approaching.