SpaceX begins deployment of Direct to Cell capable Starlinks

Falcon 9 launching Starlink Group 8-1 from California (Credit SpaceX)

SpaceX began the deployment of their Direct to Cell Starlink satellites following a successful launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California Saturday evening.

Of the 21 satellites launched, 6 of them feature an advanced modem that is capable of connecting directly to cell phones the same way phones connect to land-based cell towers.

These were not the first Direct to Cell Starlink satellites to launch; 6 also launched in January and following successful tests with everyday cell phones, SpaceX moved forward with this weekend’s deployment. Future launches will have 13 Direct to Cell satellites as SpaceX looks to increase the bandwidth of those satellites as more users start using the system,

At first, these satellites will help remove dead zones and will act similarly to how phones connect when roaming, and as more satellites deploy, data rates will get better, allowing for higher network speeds.

This was the first launch of SpaceX’s Group 8 shell, and these satellites were launched into a 53-degree orbital inclination, the same as the Group 7 shell. Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who tracks satellites, including Starlinks, noted that these Group 8 Starlinks deployed at higher orbit than prior missions, 335 km vs 290 km.

The Falcon 9 that launched this mission was Booster 1081, which completed its 6th launch to space and back, landing on the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ eight and a half minutes following lift-off.

This mission also featured the mission extender variant of the Falcon 9 second stage, which has a gray band painted around the rocket to help keep the fuel at the correct temperatures while in orbit on longer missions.

Next up for SpaceX is another Starlink launch from Florida, no earlier than midnight on Wednesday.

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SpaceX begins deployment of Direct to Cell capable Starlinks
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