Elon Musk likely silenced his naysayers forever (or at least for a few months) with the successful (and rather awe-inspiring) launch of the Falcon Heavy earlier in February, and now, the entrepreneur is headed back into space with yet another project that at one point seemed far-fetched. Musk has long outlined plans to launch low-orbiting satellites to beam high-speed internet to folks around the world as part of a program called “Starlink,” and now, those plans are inching closer to fruition. While the first couple satellites associated with Starlink were originally meant to blast off on Sunday, the launch has been delayed to February 21.
According to a letter posted to the FCC’s website in early February, it appeared that Microsat-2a and -2b, the first satellites of what is eventually slated to be an entire fleet, would go into orbit this weekend. However, just hours before its scheduled 9:17 a.m. ET liftoff time, the crew at the Vandenberg launchpad required more time to run “final checkouts.”
Team at Vandenberg is taking additional time to perform final checkouts of upgraded fairing. Payload and vehicle remain healthy. Due to mission requirements, now targeting February 21 launch of PAZ.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 17, 2018
When the satellites do go into space, they’ll be carried by a Falcon 9 rocket. In addition, the rocket will be carrying a radar observation satellite from the Spanish government. This satellite, called “Paz,” is meant to capture footage of the Earth at a highly detailed scale. And as exciting as that is, chances are that Starlink will still be the star of the show.
As CNET reported, the FCC actually granted SpaceX a license to launch the first Starlink satellites late in 2017. In SpaceX’s original application, the company noted its objectives, writing, “In addition to proving out the development of the satellite bus and related subsystems, the test program for the Microsat-2a and -2b spacecraft will also validate the design of a phased array broadband antenna communications platform.”
SpaceX has been tight-lipped about the entire enterprise, and has not made an official comment regarding the imminent launch of its first two test satellites in the project. That said, Joy Dunn, the company’s senior manager of new product introduction, did take to Twitter to drop a hint (though it has since been deleted). It read, “Really looking forward to this one” with two satellite emojis, and linked to a SpaceX tweet about the successful static fire test of the Falcon 9 that is slated to go into space soon.
Whether SpaceX chooses to talk about Starlink now, we could soon be reaping its benefits should the promise of satellite-based Wi-Fi come to fruition. Until then, we’ll just have to patiently await the takeoff of the Falcon 9.
Update: The launch of the first satellites of project Starlink has been delayed to Wednesday, February 21.