Advanced Structural Technologies to Deliver Parts for SpaceX's Starlink Satellites
Oxnard, Calif. - Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink system will be a constellation of communication satellites that are designed to provide high-speed broadband internet access around the entire globe. The project is slated for a 2020 launch of operations in a limited capacity. The goal of the system is to provide affordable internet access globally, especially to mid to low-population (rural) areas that have never had access to the internet before. Advanced Structural Technologies is proud to announce that the company will be providing pre-form cylinder liners that will be used in the fueling of both the rocket and the micro-satellites for the project.
The project follows in the footsteps of SpaceX’s first ever partner, Iridium, also a satellite telecommunications company. However, Iridium only has a fleet of 81 (75 for orbit, the rest as back-ups) satellites, whereas SpaceX plans to launch 12,000 for their satellite constellation, making SpaceX’s endeavor the largest planned constellation in history. In February 2018, the company launched two Microsat-2 test satellites for the constellation, dubbed Tintin A and Tintin B. They are the first two of the FCC-approved 4,425 satellites to be launched and SpaceX has granted authority by the FCC to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) bands to provide global Internet connectivity. SpaceX has six years to launch half of it’s first 4,425 planned satellites, or face a freeze on the number of satellites they’re allowed to launch into low-Earth orbit. In total, SpaceX will have nine years to launch all of the satellites into their low-earth, non-geostationary orbits. Furthermore, concern from NASA and the FCC about the sheer number of satellites to be launched placed a strict deorbiting regulation upon SpaceX, asking for over 90% reliability of being able to deorbit the satellites. SpaceX responded to the concern, noting that the satellites would be deorbited within a year of completion of their mission. The regulation was placed upon them due to the growing concerns about space trash; the dead satellites, abandoned rocket bodies and other debris (including live satellites) that surround our planet. Currently, there are an estimated 500,000 or so smaller orbital debris (between one and 10 centimeters in diameter) and about 21,000 larger pieces (larger than 10 centimeters) spinning around Earth, according to NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office. 4,256 of these objects are human-made satellites orbiting the Earth, of which about 1,149 are still working. Most of these are fairly small, ranging from tiny CubeSats that are only four inches on each side to communications satellites that can be over 100 feet long.
While final design is unknown, SpaceX has released (via the FCC) details of its test units launched in February. The following was stated by SpaceX about the test units, according to their FCC application:
“The primary structure for the Microsat-2a and -2b test spacecraft will be a box design measuring 1.1m x 0.7m x 0.7m (3.6ft x 2.3ft x 2.3ft) and carries the spacecraft flight computer, power system components, attitude determination and control components, propulsion components, GPS receiver, and broadband, telemetry, and command receivers and transmitters. The primary bus is mounted on the payload truss system, which also carries communications panels, inter-satellite optical link transmitters and receivers, star trackers, and a telemetry antenna. There are two 2x8 meter (6.56ft x 26.24ft) solar panels. Each demonstration spacecraft has a total mass of approximately 400kg (881.849 lbs). The attitude of each spacecraft is 3-axis stabilized, and is dynamically controlled over each orbit to maintain attitude position for two pointing modes of operation: broadband antenna (antennas to nadir for testing) and solar array (solar arrays facing sun for charging). Power is provided by solar panels designed to deliver sufficient power at the predicted end of spacecraft life to not impair any test objectives. The Thermal Control System ensures that components are kept within operational temperature ranges.” The satellites are said to have an operational lifespan of between five to seven years.