SpaceX launches first full batch of laser-equipped Starlink satellites


September 14, 2021 by Stephen Clark


The rocket targeted deployment of the Starlink satellites in an elongated orbit with an apogee, or high point, of 213 miles (343 kilometers). The satellites, built by SpaceX on an assembly line in Redmond, Washington, will deploy solar panels and activate krypton-fueled plasma thrusters to reach an operational circular orbit at an altitude of 354 miles (570 kilometers).

The 51 satellites launched Monday will begin populating a new shell within SpaceX’s Starlink network. SpaceX completed the fleet’s first orbital shell after a series of dedicated launches from Florida over two years between May 2019 and May of this year.

The Starlink satellites launched so far give the network reach to high latitudes, but don’t provide global coverage.

“We’ve completed the first element of our network …which basically gets us to plus or minus 50 degrees, 53 degrees, 55 degrees (latitude),” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, during a panel discussion at the Space Symposium last month.

The next phase of the Starlink program, beginning with Monday’s launch, will expand the coverage to the polar regions.

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