SpaceX launches another 60 Starlink satellites into orbit — including one with an inbuilt ‘sun visor’ to make the constellation less visible from Earth

  • Total number of Starlink satellites now in orbit has now reached 482
  • SpaceX has permission from the FCC to create a constellation of 12,000 craft 
  • System is designed to beam down cheap and easy to access internet to all 
  • VisorSat is latest experiment to reduce Starlink’s brightness and make the constellation less visible from Earth 

Elon Musk’s Starlink programme has successfully launched a further 60 satellites into orbit around Earth. 

SpaceX has permission from the FCC for a constellation of 12,000 such satellites and it is hoped they will beam internet down to all of Earth’s inhabitants. 

This launch takes the current total of Starlink satellites in orbit to 482 and the company says it will be able to offer a ‘moderate’ service when it reaches 800.

The project has received widespread criticism from astronomers for tainting the natural view of the night sky as the satellites are highly reflective.  

As a result, SpaceX has included an experimental craft with an inbuilt sun visor in this batch. 

It is hoped the system will reduce the amount of light that is reflected by the spacecraft and therefore reduce its visibility from Earth.   

Elon Musk’s Starlink programme has successfully launched a further 60 satellites into orbit around Earth (pictured, thr Falcon 9 rocket taking off) . SpaceX has permission for a mega-constellation of 12,000 such satellites 

The 60 satellites launched atop the firm’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 8:55pm EDT on June 3 (1:55am BST June 4)

Starlink received criticism from astronomers for tainting the natural view of the night sky as the satellites are highly reflective. As a result, SpaceX has included an experimental craft with an inbuilt sun visor in this batch, in a project called ‘VisorSat’ (pictured) 

‘The goal of Starlink is to create a network that will help provide internet services to those who are not yet connected, and to provide reliable and affordable internet across the globe,’ Kennedy Space Center said in a blog post.

The 60 satellites launched atop the firm’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 8:55pm EDT on June 3 (1:55am BST June 4).  

Installing a sunshade on a 575lbs (260kg) satellite orbiting 341 miles above Earth is the second method SpaceX has tried to reduce the visibility of the constellation. 

Previously, on the January 6 launch, one satellite was covered in a dark coating designed to appease to appease disgruntled astronomers.

However, SpaceX engineers had hoped this would reduce brightness by up to 55 per cent, but the paint caused the machinery to absorb radiation and overheat. 

Now, Elon Musk’s company is trialling a system called VisorSat, which will keep antennae in the shade to stop it reflecting sunlight.  

‘We have a radio-transparent foam that will deploy nearly upon the satellite being released, and it blocks the sun from reaching the antennas,’ Musk said of the system in April. 

The maverick billionaire added that the reason Starlink is so prominent from Earth with the naked eye is because of the angle of the satellite’s solar panels.

As the satellites rise to orbit altitude, the are at the perfect position to bounce light from the sun back to Earth, making the satellites look similar to stars.

SpaceX is working to adjust this angle to avoid the issue going forward, according to Musk.  

Installing a sunshade on a 575lbs (260kg) satellite orbiting 341 miles above Earth is the second method SpaceX has tried to reduce the visibility of the constellation. Previously, on the January 6 launch, one satellite was covered in a dark coating, but this method caused overheating 

SpaceX is developing Starlink with the goal of providing high-speed internet to everyone on the globe – no matter their location. However, scientists and stargazers have voiced frustrations that the devices are ruining the natural view of the sky

Starlink launch delayed to focus on historic astronaut launch 

SpaceX’s June 3 Starlink launch was delayed to focus on Saturday’s historic launch of two NASA astronauts aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley took off from Launch Complex 39A at 3:22pm Saturday – the first time in nine years an American crew has launched from US soil.

‘Let’s light this candle,’ commander Hurley said just before liftoff.

There was a 50 percent chance Falcon 9 would not take off due to ominous clouds and lightning risks, but the weather cleared with just 45 minutes left on the clock countdown.

The Launch America mission is also the first time a private company has put astronauts into space and is the second attempt to launch after Wednesday’s flight was aborted due to poor weather conditions.

After reaching orbit, Falcon 9 successfully returned to Earth and was retrieved by SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You.’

The two American astronauts later safely docked on the ISS. 

Astronomers have repeatedly voiced their concerns over the project and the interference it brings.  

In April, a string of bright lights marched uniformly across the sky, with photographers capturing the event and sharing footage on Twitter.

Some claimed it was UFOs, but it was in fact the Starlink constellation. 

Prominent comedian and science communicator Dara O’Briain took to social media to bemoan the man-made constellation, saying ‘there goes the night sky’. 

In response to a user asking him for an explanation to the sight, Mr O’Briain tweeted:  ‘Yep, just saw them too. It’s the Starlink satellite network, and Elon Musk wants to put a 1,000 of them up. There goes the night sky.’ 

His posted garnered more than 150 replies from others who shared his disdain.

Before then, astronomers had already called plans for the high-speed global internet a ‘tragedy’ and said they are getting in the way of key scientific observations.  

‘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 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.’

ELON MUSK’S SPACEX SET TO BRING BROADBAND INTERNET TO THE WORLD WITH ITS STARLINK CONSTELLATION OF SATELLITS

Elon Musk’s ‘Starlink’ satellites 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, are 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 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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