SpaceX is going to launch a large number of satellites on 15th May 2019. The launch will add to the company’s existing satellites in the Earth’s orbit.
According to SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, “This next batch of satellites will really be a demonstration set for us to see the deployment scheme and start putting our network together. We start launching satellites for actual service later this year.” She also added that the first batch scheduled to launch on 15th May will be confirmatory of the batches that will follow. Earlier in 2017, the company had announced an estimated timeframe of 2020 – 2021 for putting 800 satellites in orbit.
Gwynne Shotwell mentions that SpaceX plans to carry out approximately 20 launches in 2019, excluding the Starlink launches. This graph is consistent with SpaceX’s launch record in the previous years when the company carried out 18 launch missions in 2017, and 21 in 2018. Shotwell also mentioned that SpaceX had expanded its manufacturing capacity to 40 launches in a year expecting a boom in the commercial sector which unfortunately did not happen. “We thought the commercial market might expand to that, I think we probably wished it had, but now we’ve got plenty of capacity to launch our Starlink system,” Shotwell said.
The demonstration satellites that are launching on 15 May will be ‘test satellites’ that will not have features such as inter-satellite links, unlike the final Starlink satellites. Although, the test batch will have some highly capable antennas and electric propulsion.
SpaceX’s competitors such as OneWeb and Kepler Communications are also working on their own sets of launches and had previously disputed against Starlink for possible signal interference in lower orbits. SpaceX, however, received the green signal from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) when it found that “the modification proposed by SpaceX does not present significant interference problems and is in the public interest.”