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SpaceX launches broadband scanners – BBC News

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The launch of dawn had to start at a very specific moment

SpaceX was launched again on Thursday, this time to put a Spanish radar satellite on Earth.

But there was also a lot of interest in the mission's secondary payloads: a pair of spacecraft that the Californian rocket company will use to test broadband delivery from orbit.

SpaceX has big plans in this area.

Sometime in the mid-2020s, it expects to operate more than 4,000 of these satellites, connecting every corner of the Earth with the Internet.

Wednesday's flight was the first for SpaceX since the dramatic debut on February 6 of its Falcon Heavy, the most powerful launcher in the world.

This time, it was the turn of the smallest workhorse, the Falcon-9.

He rose from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on the Pacific coast of the United States at exactly 06:17 (14:17 GMT).

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Impression of an artist of the radar satellite imagery PAZ on the Earth

The precise moment was necessary to ensure that the PAZ radar satellite, which will be managed by Hisdesat based in Madrid, was dropped on the right side of the sky.

The new Earth observer will join with a pair of German spacecraft, Tandem-X and TerraSAR-X, which are already in orbit.

As a trio, they will create an image of the planet's surface, seeing characteristics of up to 25 cm, even when there are heavy clouds on the road.

The ascent to the orbit and launch of the PAZ platform took only 10 minutes. SpaceX did not try to recover the amplifier of the first stage of the Falcon-9, which allowed it to fall into the ocean. The rocket segment had previously flown last year.

Of most interest to SpaceX this time was the launch of Pathfinder satellites for their planned Starlink broadband network (although confirmation of successful deployment at the time of publication was still expected).

In 2016, he filed an application with the US Federal Communications Commission. UU To obtain a license to operate a "mesh network" in the sky consisting of 4,425 satellites arranged in 83 orbital planes.

These spacecraft would be located at altitudes ranging from 1,110 km to 1,325 km, and would transmit in the Ku and Ka portions of the radio spectrum.

The company also wishes to place an additional 7,500 satellites that would be located in the initial set and transmit in the V-band.

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Title of the image [19659005] The two SpaceX satellites on each side of the adapter that kept them in the rocket

The idea is that Starlink would deliver performance terabits, with all the spacecraft linked so that the bandwidth could be focused on those regions where it was most needed.

Wednesday's Falcon-9 took the Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b test benches (1a and 1b were previous design versions that were never released).

The pair is identical, with a bus, or chassis, slightly less than 1 cubic meter and with two 8 m long solar wings; and weighing approximately 400 kg.

The Microsatts are intended to test all the different design elements, such as the antenna that will retransmit the data traffic.

If everything continues as it should, SpaceX will try to start deploying Starlink satellites in batches in the coming years.

Falcon Heavy, with its enormous lifting capacity, could help accelerate deployment.

SpaceX does not talk much about its broadband plans, but that's true for all companies that have similar proposals.

Some of these firms have already launched pioneers. Canada's Telesat, for example, launched its LEO phase 1 satellite in January. This is a prototype of more than 100 tracking platforms.

Perhaps the most advanced megaconstellation in this field is OneWeb, which will launch 10 satellites later this year for a network that will eventually comprise at least 600, but could eventually span more than 2,000 spacecraft.

OneWeb is backed by heavyweights in the space industry, such as Airbus, Qualcomm, Intelsat, Hughes and MDA.

The rush to boost these mega broadband constellations has generated some concern on the part of scientists who study space debris.

Computer models have suggested that, unless there is a solid strategy to eliminate old or broken satellites from these networks, the probability of collisions in orbit will increase drastically.

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