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SpaceX pushes back its fifth launch of Starlink satellites to Sunday due to poor weather in Florida

SpaceX has pushed back its fifth launch of Starlinks due to poor weather.

The firm announced that although the static fire of its Falcon 9 rocket is complete, the next batch of 60 satellites will not head for low-orbit until Sunday – the initial launch was set for Saturday. 

The mission is set to kick off at 10:25 AM EST from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the weather, as of now, is 90 percent favorable for takeoff.

If all goes according to plan, this batch will bring the total Starlink constellation to 300 – putting the firm on track to have 1,500 satellites in low-orbit by the end of 2020. 

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SpaceX announced on Twitter that although the static fire of its Falcon 9 rocket is complete, the next batch of 60 satellites will not head for low-orbit until Sunday - the initial launch was set for Saturday

SpaceX announced on Twitter that although the static fire of its Falcon 9 rocket is complete, the next batch of 60 satellites will not head for low-orbit until Sunday – the initial launch was set for Saturday

SpaceX intends ultimately to launch thousands of satellites to beam broadband around the globe. 

If all continues on track for the constellation, 100 or more such Starlink launches could occur in the future. 

If the firm can launch hit its 1,500 this year, it will be able to open access to North America. 

The firm has already received approval to launch 12,000 of its satellites, but is waiting for the authorization of another 30,000. 

Sunday’s launch is set to kick off at 10:25 AM EST from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the weather, as of now, is 90 percent favorable for takeoff. If all goes according to plan, this launch will bring the total Starlink constellation to 300

Sunday’s launch is set to kick off at 10:25 AM EST from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the weather, as of now, is 90 percent favorable for takeoff. If all goes according to plan, this launch will bring the total Starlink constellation to 300

However, the mission has caused a stir among the astronomy community, as the 242 that are already in orbit are blocking the night sky and getting in the way of key scientific observations.

However, the mission has caused a stir among the astronomy community, as the 242 that are already in orbit are blocking the night sky and getting in the way of key scientific observations.

Because how close the devices are to Earth, it is necessary to have thousands of the devices floating around in low-orbit in order to blanket the globe with internet.

WHY DO EXPERTS OPPOSE STARLINK? 

Many astronomers have said the hundreds of satellites are already getting in the way of scientific observations.

The satellites reflect light and make it difficult for experts to view the night sky. 

Furthermore, the orbiting satellites can also interfere with the workings of ground-based radio telescopes that experts use to see more distant phenomena. 

However, the mission has caused a stir among the astronomy community, as the 242 that are already in orbit are blocking the night sky and getting in the way of key scientific observations.

The development is seen as a new headache for researchers who already have to find workarounds to deal with objects cluttering their images of deep space.

Furthermore, the orbiting satellites can also interfere with the workings of ground-based radio telescopes that experts use to see more distant phenomena.

‘The night sky is a commons — and what we have here is a tragedy of the commons,’ Imperial College London astrophysicist Dave Clements told the BBC.

The proposed constellations, he added, ‘present a foreground between what we’re observing from the Earth and the rest of the Universe.’

‘So they get in the way of everything. And you’ll miss whatever is behind them, whether that’s a nearby potentially hazardous asteroid or the most distant quasar in the Universe.’

The orbiting satellites can also interfere with the workings of ground-based radio telescopes that experts use to see more distant phenomena. Pictured are a group of Starlinks packed and ready to head to low-orbit

The orbiting satellites can also interfere with the workings of ground-based radio telescopes that experts use to see more distant phenomena. Pictured are a group of Starlinks packed and ready to head to low-orbit

The satellites will be a particular menace to large-scale surveys of the sky, like Chile’s planned Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).

‘What we want to do with LSST and other telescopes is to make a real-time motion picture of how the sky is changing,’ explained Dr Clements.

‘Now we have these satellites that interrupt observations, and it’s like someone’s walking around firing a flashbulb every now and again.’

However, it seems these concerns and complaints have not fallen on deaf ears, as SpaceX is currently testing one satellite covered in a dark coating that is said to be made of anti-reflective material, which should reduce the glare given off by the current satellites.

Laura Forczyk, a space analyst, said the measures’ effectiveness is still uncertain.

‘SpaceX has not yet eased the minds of astronomers concerned about the reflectivity of their Starlink satellites,’ she told AFP.

‘The real test will be the days following launch when the smallsats are close together and in a lower altitude before ascending to their final orbit.’ 

‘Astronomers and stargazers will be able to compare the brightness of this current batch of smallsats compared to previous versions.’

WHAT IS STARLINK AND WHAT ARE ITS GOALS?

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched the fourth batch of its ‘Starlink’ space internet satellites – taking the total to 240.

They form a constellation of thousands of satellites, designed to provide low-cost broadband internet service from low Earth orbit.

The constellation, informally known as Starlink, and under development at SpaceX’s facilities in Redmond, Washington.

Its goal is to beam superfast internet into your home from space.

While satellite internet has been around for a while, it has suffered from high latency and unreliable connections.

Starlink is different. SpaceX says putting a ‘constellation’ of satellites in low earth orbit would provide high-speed, cable-like internet all over the world.

The billionaire’s company wants to create the global system to help it generate more cash.

Musk has previously said the venture could give three billion people who currently do not have access to the internet a cheap way of getting online.

It could also help fund a future city on Mars.

Helping humanity reach the red planet is one of Musk’s long-stated aims and was what inspired him to start SpaceX.

The company recently filed plans with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit above the Earth – three times as many that are currently in operation.

‘Once fully deployed, the SpaceX system will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service,’ the firm said.

‘Every point on the Earth’s surface will see, at all times, a SpaceX satellite.’

The network will provide internet access to the US and the rest of the world, it added.

It is expected to take more than five years and $9.8 billion (£7.1bn) of investment, although satellite internet has proved an expensive market in the past and analysts expect the final bill will be higher.

Musk compared the project to ‘rebuilding the internet in space’, as it would reduce reliance on the existing network of undersea fibre-optic cables which criss-cross the planet.

In the US, the FCC welcomed the scheme as a way to provide internet connections to more people.

 

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