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Leaked: SpaceX to launch the first two Starlink Group 3 missions on July 5

Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf is a law graduate and freelance journalist with a keen interest in tech reporting.

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As we just discovered via a Twitter post, it seems the American space manufacturer, SpaceX, is preparing to launch a new shell of the Starlink satellites missions soon.

A tweet from the popular reliable SpaceX leaked @Alexphysics13 late last month pointed out that SpaceX has requested an official permit from FCC to start launching “Group 3” of its first 4408-satellite Starlink constellation as early as July 2022.

The leaker noted that the launch is currently targeted for no earlier than July 5th. The launch will be the fourth of five orbital ‘shells’ of the first Starlink constellation, with two launches from Vandenberg: Starlink Group 3-1 and Starlink Group 3-2.

SpaceX’s 4408-satellite first-generation Starlink constellation is divided into five orbital “shells,” each of which has its own name. Each shell can be thought of as, well, a shell – a thin layer of satellites that are more or less evenly dispersed around the Earth’s spherical shell.

Only two of the five shells are assigned to 3168 of the 4408 Starlink Gen1 satellites, and those two shells have been SpaceX’s primary emphasis since the company began operating Starlink flights in November 2019. Group 1 or Shell 1 currently has 1450 of the nominal 1584 active satellites in orbit, including satellites in reserve.

The constellation was once fully inhabited, however, 205 of the 1665 V1.0 satellites launched by SpaceX between November 2019 and May 2021 were lost due to a number of issues. The majority failed to complete controlled deorbits and reentered, however, 28 failed to finish and will take months to years to reenter.

SpaceX began launching Group/Shell 4 satellites, which are almost identical to Group 1, in November 2021 and has maintained an exceptional rate since then, launching 913 satellites in the last six months, 866 of which are still operational. All 1584 Group 4 satellites could be in orbit by the end of 2022 if the current launch pace is maintained.

Anyways, Group 3 appears to be the next to launch, and it will be the first operational polar Starlink satellite launch. Those polar-orbiting spacecraft, which are also equipped with laser links, will be useful for connecting Starlink internet customers at the Earth’s far reaches.

They may be even more beneficial in the context of SpaceX’s optical network in orbit because of their routing capabilities, which might make it easier for aircraft or ships distant from any nearby ground station to stay connected to the network practically any place on Earth. With only 348 satellites, SpaceX could finish Group 3 in as few as seven or eight Falcon 9 launches.

According to the leaker, the first two Starlink Group 3 missions are both scheduled to launch from SpaceX’s Vandenberg Space Force Base, California facilities as early as July this year, beginning with Starlink 3-1 on July 5th.

Meanwhile, SpaceX has no plans to slow down its Starlink Group 4 launch schedule and will continue to make full use of its East Coast launch pads in order to achieve an average of at least one launch per week throughout 2022. Follow TechGenyz for more latest updates.

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