Image courtesy of: Greg Scott/Twitter @GregScott_Photo

Here’s Why Starlink-12 Postponed Indefinitely

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SpaceX’s Starlink-12 mission has been delayed indefinitely delayed. The initial launch was scheduled on Thursday September 17 at 2:19 p.m. EDT. The liftoff was supposed to take place from Kennedy Space Center launch pad 39A.

According to a tweet by SpaceX the same day, the launch attempt was scrubbed due to a “recovery issue”.

Disconcerting buoy data

Prior to the announcement, SpaceX’s ship Ms. Tree was spotted diverting to a port in Morehead City, North Carolina. 

Ms. Tree’s counterpart, Ms. Chief, was tasked to recover both fairing halves all on its own.  

The Ms. Tree and the Ms. Chief are basically marine vessels chartered by SpaceX. Both ships are used as platforms to retrieve a Falcon 9 booster’s payload fairing.  

A payload fairing, or nose cone, is a two-piece protective cover that surrounds a rocket’s payload. In other words, it protects the launch vehicle’s cargo.

According to buoy data, conditions at the Atlantic Ocean’s fairing and booster recovery zones were challenging. A data buoy is an instrument that collects atmospheric and oceanographic conditions within the world’s oceans. They have real-time sensors that enable them to provide an accurate weather forecast.. 

SpaceX opted not to take any risks and initially delayed the mission for 1 day. 

Third Time’s The Charm?

Starlink-12 was re-scheduled and was supposed to launch today on Friday, at 1:57 p.m. EDT.  

SpaceX then confirmed on Twitter that Starlink-12 was now postponed indefinitely due to the “severe weather in the recovery area.” 

The Falcon 9 B1058 has been assigned as the launch vehicle for Starlink-12. Up until next thursday, the booster has the opportunity to hold the second best record for launch turnaround in history.  

It was last used to carry South Korea’s ANASIS-II military-grade satellite back in July 20. This means that the Falcon 9 booster was launched twice in the span of 58 days, thus possessing the second best record.

A launch turnaround is the time it takes for a reusable rocket to launch twice. Incidentally,  the B1058 is also the proud holder of the best record for launch turnaround!

Indeed, the booster was also used for SpaceX’s historics Demo-2 mission. This mission and the ANASIS-II were only 51 days apart. 

Our Take:

Starlink-12 will constitute SpaceX’s eleventh Starlink mission in 2020 and thirteenth overall. 

By the time the Starlink-12 is complete, the company will have deployed 775 v1.0 internet satellites into orbit out of a possible 12,000. 

Regardless when the mission will be completed, and if the B1058 will hold the second best record for launch turnaround, one thing is certain. SpaceX is steadily deploying its satellite constellation. 

If everything goes according to plan during the upcoming Starlink missions, this spells great news for the company. 

Its ever-increasing constellation could be just two months or so away from the first public beta tests of its internet service.

This does not mean, however, that internet users don’t have an idea of Starlink’s performance. 

Last August, Eleven private beta users anonymously disclosed the speed tests via Ookla’s speedtest.net tool. The tests showed download speeds ranging from 11Mbps to 60 Mbps, and upload speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 18Mbps. The tests also showed latencies ranging from 31 milliseconds to 94 milliseconds. A reddit user compiled the results together in a single picture and posted it on reddit network.  

Additionally, in a letter to the FCC submitted on September 4, SpaceX revealed Starlink’s latest results.

Beta tests have resulted in download speeds of over 100 Mbps (over 12.5 MB/s) and upload speeds of approximately 40 Mbps (around 5 MB/s). The beta service also resulted in latency times varying between 40 and 50 milliseconds. 

SpaceX’s main objective after the deployment of its constellation is to have download speeds of 1Gbps. 

The company has launched less than 10% of its constellation thus far and is well on its way to achieve this lofty goal!

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