Author Topic: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?  (Read 12419 times)

Online Robotbeat

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #60 on: 12/27/2017 12:48 AM »
I wouldn't be super surprised if SpaceX puts Earth observation cameras on Starlink eventually, especially if they start working more closely with Tesla. It can help improve Tesla's mapping system, which currently is much worse than Google Maps.

Google has invested a lot in mapping and now owns some Earth observation constellations which they algorithmically extract features from for Google Maps.
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Online AncientU

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #61 on: 12/27/2017 12:25 PM »
With the first 2 test sats going up late Jan/ early Feb, I expect the first set of production sats to be launched at about +18 months. That includes 6 months of testing with these 2 sats to delve out the problems and solutions and software needed for the production models. Then 1 year for a combined very short design period with manufacturing gearing up with the first 20-30 sats delivered around Jun 2019 with launch Aug 2019. Then launches every 2 months of additional sets with the duration between shortening by a few days each cycle until launches occurring at just less than 1 month duration.

Operational point (800+ sats) is reached around Mid to late 2021 based on how many sats can be launched on each F9 flight (20 [latest date] or 32 [earlier date]).
I think it may be sooner than 18 months for the first production, we'll see. SpaceX iterates fast so there may be another pait to test with prior to production start.
A definite possibility of 2 to 4 production prototypes at 12+ months from the Feb launched set. Since these would be actual production constellation like in features wattage/bandwidth/spot sizes/cross links they would be covered under the general FCC license for the constellation. Meaning we would not get any indication by following applications for FCC licensing. We would only know if this will happen if SpaceX releases the info about such.

If they are seeking a new round of funding as some suspect, they'll release some general success-type news to up the stock value.  Expect them to attempt to be operational late 2020 or early 2021... but many things can go wrong.
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Online AncientU

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #62 on: 12/27/2017 12:29 PM »
I wouldn't be super surprised if SpaceX puts Earth observation cameras on Starlink eventually, especially if they start working more closely with Tesla. It can help improve Tesla's mapping system, which currently is much worse than Google Maps.

Google has invested a lot in mapping and now owns some Earth observation constellations which they algorithmically extract features from for Google Maps.

I'd expect imaging prototypes from the start.  Will definitely dictate some operating parameters and internally use some bandwidth/generate some revenue while they are getting the first 800 sats aloft.
« Last Edit: 12/27/2017 07:29 PM by AncientU »
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Offline Lar

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #63 on: 12/27/2017 12:39 PM »
I wouldn't be super surprised if SpaceX puts Earth observation cameras on Starlink eventually, especially if they start working more closely with Tesla. It can help improve Tesla's mapping system, which currently is much worse than Google Maps.

Google has invested a lot in mapping and now owns some Earth observation constellations which they algorithmically extract features from for Google Maps.

See also this study of just how far ahead Google is (of everyone else).. .kind of a long read but fascinating.

https://www.justinobeirne.com/google-maps-moat/

Doing something about that (other than just licensing Google as everyone else seems to be doing) smacks of the sort of thing Elon would like. HOWEVER, with Google as an investor of Starlink, the actual path might be twisty.
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Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #64 on: 12/27/2017 07:54 PM »
This discussion got stared in the FH thread but should be here.

The discussion was about how many Starlink sats could fit in the faring or lengthened faring on the FH.

If the dimensions of 4m X 1.8m X 1.2M are correct then even a lengthened faring would only hold 15 sats at a mass of ~7.5mt. Without a longer faring then only 10 sats.

At only 10 sats per launch in order to get to 800 sats in 2 years of launching requires 40 launches a year of just Starlink sats in starting in mid 2019 and by mid 2021 would have 800 sats. But 40 addition launches per year above the already ~25 launches per year is a total of 65 launches per year. In order to achieve those rates Boca Chica would be launching at the rate of 12 per year, 40 and 39A at the rate of 2 /month each (weekly launches from the combined pads), and VAFB SLC-4E at at least 6/year.

If the size is correct then this represents an explosion in the launch rate starting in mid 2019. Jumping from up to 30 to more than 60.

Between Starlink and OneWeb the yearly launch rate worldwide will increase by >50% from its current up to 90 to  as high as 150 world wide.

This very high launch rate will require significant new infrastructure to be able to make it happen. One of which is an active Boca Chica launch pad capable of at least 12 GTO launches per year including non-government or non-crewed FH launches toward low inclinations.

Online AncientU

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #65 on: 12/27/2017 09:58 PM »
I wouldn't be super surprised if SpaceX puts Earth observation cameras on Starlink eventually, especially if they start working more closely with Tesla. It can help improve Tesla's mapping system, which currently is much worse than Google Maps.

Google has invested a lot in mapping and now owns some Earth observation constellations which they algorithmically extract features from for Google Maps.

See also this study of just how far ahead Google is (of everyone else).. .kind of a long read but fascinating.

https://www.justinobeirne.com/google-maps-moat/

Doing something about that (other than just licensing Google as everyone else seems to be doing) smacks of the sort of thing Elon would like. HOWEVER, with Google as an investor of Starlink, the actual path might be twisty.

Apparently, the meta-data collected by Tesla autonomous vehicles would be a huge treasure chest along the lines of Google Maps data.  (Picture a hundred thousand vehicles with full sensor suite vs a fleet of hundreds(?) of Google street view vehicles.)  The sophistication to actually mine those data would be a new level of tech that might be beyond anyone's reach today.  Similarly with continuous optical coverage of the ground from thousands of satellites. (Compare to several (?) to tens (?) of optical imaging satellites flown by Google.) 

The possibilities boggle the mind.
« Last Edit: 12/27/2017 09:59 PM by AncientU »
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Online docmordrid

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #66 on: 12/28/2017 05:52 AM »
Tesla will be upgrading their nav  system in early 2018, perfect timing to include hooks for new techs and map providers.

Elon Musk ✔ @elonmusk
Major navigation overhaul coming in early 2018. Will be light-years ahead of current system, but we are testing it rigorously before rolling out.
« Last Edit: 12/28/2017 05:52 AM by docmordrid »
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Offline deruch

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #67 on: 12/28/2017 09:23 AM »
>
I have failed to find a nice mass or volume number for the satellites.
>
I've failed to find any source saying the volume for the satellite is between 3m^3 and 6m^3, and not (say) 1m^3.
>

Here ya go....

I have problems with this. This gives the satellite body dimensions as 4*1.8*1.2m - 8.6m^3, so a completely naive view might be that ~6 satellites might fit inside the fairing.

However, Iridium-next satellite dimensions are from one source given as  3.1 m x 2.4 m x 1.5 m - 11.1m^3, and that launched ten.

Iridium weighs over twice as much.
4*1.8*1.2 is also notably rather larger than a refrigerator (annoyingly, I can find lots of people repeating this claim, but can't find a source at the 2015 announcement, other transcripts of what Elon has said, or ...)

If we take 4*1.8*1.2 as gospel, and not unfolded, this is also for example consistent with a pie-wedge shape 4m high, 1.8m wide, with the segments being 1.2m along the outside diameter. this allows fitting 22 into the existing fairing.

If the 'size of a refrigerator' is to be believed, then 1.8*1.2*1.2 would about work, with around 40 fitting, assuming rectangular boxes.
Either of these would also be about consistent with Iridium satellite density, not way under it.

The dimensions given are used for the orbital decay drag calculation, so most definitely the unfolded dimensions.

I think Iridium birds are 2.4 m tall and 1.5 m thick, with 3.1 m being the unfolded span of the arrays. If the SpaceX birds are designed along the same lines, they would be 1.8 m tall, 1.2 m thick, with a 4 m array span. Assuming the folded width maintains around the same 80% size ratio to Iridium, they could fit at least 6 in a ring (Iridium fits 5). They could easily fit 3 rings high in the current fairing, plus a small ring of 3 on top, for a total of 21. If they get 7 per ring and 4 in a smaller ring on top, that's 25 per launch, or exactly 1/2 an orbital plane. It's also about 10,000 kg including dispensers, which is about what F9 Block 5 will launch to to 1000 km polar orbit with booster RTLS.

The chart with the sizes has a separate listings for satellite body and solar array.  Maybe there are unfolded antennas that are contributing to that 4m dimension but it isn't from the solar arrays.
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Online AncientU

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #68 on: 12/28/2017 11:58 AM »
Tesla will be upgrading their nav  system in early 2018, perfect timing to include hooks for new techs and map providers.

Elon Musk ✔ @elonmusk
Major navigation overhaul coming in early 2018. Will be light-years ahead of current system, but we are testing it rigorously before rolling out.

Quote
Vastly better maps/nav coming soon
https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/945749747129659392
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Online speedevil

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #69 on: 12/28/2017 02:43 PM »
This discussion got stared in the FH thread but should be here.

The discussion was about how many Starlink sats could fit in the faring or lengthened faring on the FH.

If the dimensions of 4m X 1.8m X 1.2M are correct then even a lengthened faring would only hold 15 sats at a mass of ~7.5mt. Without a longer faring then only 10 sats.

At only 10 sats per launch in order to get to 800 sats in 2 years of launching requires 40 launches a year of just Starlink sats in starting in mid 2019 and by mid 2021 would have 800 sats. But 40 addition launches per year above the already ~25 launches per year is a total of 65 launches per year. In order to achieve those rates Boca Chica would be launching at the rate of 12 per year, 40 and 39A at the rate of 2 /month each (weekly launches from the combined pads), and VAFB SLC-4E at at least 6/year.

If the size is correct then this represents an explosion in the launch rate starting in mid 2019. Jumping from up to 30 to more than 60.

This table from the FCC describes the satellites. However it is unclear.
It describes a satellite with a body dimension of 4*1.8*1.2m
As mentioned in my post quoted a few posts ago include, shapes which have a maximum dimension of 4*1.8*1.2m include ones which can pack 22 into a standard fairing.
(4m tall pie wedge shape).

No reasonable person would describe a 4m tall or long thing as 'refrigerator sized'.

1.8*1.2*1.2-0.9*0.6*0.6 would be consistent with refrigerator sizes, the latter would require an unlikely density, to hit the above mass of 386kg, the former would be reasonably consistent with Iridium satellite density.

To avoid doubly folding the solar panels, and to get 2m*6m solar panels on the thing, it seems reasonable the overall dimension when packed would be ~2m in minimum height, with five panels lying against the sides, each of 1.2m wide.
Coincidentally, this is very close to the size of the dragon solar panels. (I was lazy and measured from this paper model )

If we want to fit such a satellite in a 4.6m diameter fairing, one idea that springs to mind is a pie wedge design, with a 60cm core.
If we imagine several whole pies stacked vertically at 1.3m spacing, with eleven satellites per pie, that comes out as 55 on 5 pies, with perhaps another 5 on top.

The short side adjacent to the core would be mostly filled with folded solar panels, which have 16cm for 10 panels.

At 386kg (say 450 total plus dispenser) per satellite, this is 24000kg.

This is one possible design which is consistent with the available data, and seems broadly consistent with what's possible.

It implies that the existing fairing may be quite adequate for Falcon 9 to max out mass, given published data on Starlink sats, requiring only 14 launches to get 800 up with the standard fairing.

Or considerably fewer launches with Falcon heavy and a larger fairing.

If you want to argue you can only fit 10 in a Falcon 9 stock fairing, that means that the packed density is well under half that of Iridium-next.
Given that Starlink was carefully designed with insider knowledge about F9 and plans for the future, presumably with no thought given to not launching on F9/F9H - it would seem ridiculous for this to be the case.

Especially as they know they're going to be spending >>$1B on launch costs, and are not buying pre-designed satellite busses that are not optimised.

A much larger fairing is also a much heavier fairing, and if you're spending 4 tons of launch on a fairing expansion, and launching 40 per year, spending even several hundred million dollars getting your satellites down to a more dense packing makes sense.
« Last Edit: 01/15/2018 03:20 AM by speedevil »

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #70 on: 12/28/2017 10:15 PM »
I hope you are correct that the launch size is indeed about 1/6th the quoted body size. That then makes possible to use FH to launch a full ring 50+ sats for a cost internal to FH ~$55M or $1.1M vs 25 with F9 at a internal cost to SpaceX of $32M or $1.28M. Even though there is just a seemingly small savings per sat of $0.18M when you multiply by 1000 sats you get $180M savings.

As long as the number of sats launchable by FH is a greater factor than the cost of FH over F9 then there will be an incentive to use FH and not just a few but alot of them 8+ launches per year. for just 400 sats per year in first couple of years with launch rate doubling in later couple of years to 16+ launches of FH per year.

All of this keeps pointing out how SpaceX has a great need for BFR to be available sooner rather than latter in order to significantly save on costs of deployment for Starlink.

Online speedevil

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Re: SpaceX - now a satellite (constellation) operator?
« Reply #71 on: 12/28/2017 11:11 PM »
All of this keeps pointing out how SpaceX has a great need for BFR to be available sooner rather than latter in order to significantly save on costs of deployment for Starlink.

Once you've got a minimal constellation, even perhaps a minimal demo constellation over one spot for a week when you can let VCs play with it, the amount of profit they'd require for a 5 year bond to fund launch on F9/H till initial operating revenues cover all your costs so far may be reasonable.

There are costs to letting your competitors get close, which may exceed the cost of sacrificing some revenue to outside investors for the initial period of deployment, or waiting for BFR.

BFR would make things much, much nicer, even if initially it can only launch a handful of satellites due to BFS/SSTO.

(Borderline plausible with optimistic assumptions).

I just thought for a moment of using F9H to launch landing fuel for BFR, along with recovering S2. Send help.
« Last Edit: 12/29/2017 02:49 AM by speedevil »

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