SpaceX Commences Deployment of Direct-to-Cell Capable Starlink Network

SpaceX began the deployment of their Direct to Cell Starlink satellites following a successful launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Saturday evening. The launch involved 21 satellites, with 6 featuring an advanced modem capable of connecting directly to cell phones, similar to how phones connect to land-based cell towers. This was not the first time Direct to Cell Starlink satellites had been launched; 6 were also launched in January. Following successful tests with everyday cell phones, SpaceX proceeded with the recent deployment.

Future launches are expected to include 13 Direct to Cell satellites as SpaceX aims to enhance the bandwidth for increased user usage. Initially, these satellites will help remove dead zones and operate similarly to how phones connect when roaming. As more satellites are deployed, data rates are anticipated to improve, allowing for higher network speeds. This launch marked the first of SpaceX’s Group 8 shell, with the satellites being launched into a 53-degree orbital inclination, the same as the Group 7 shell.

Notably, the Group 8 Starlinks deployed at a higher orbit than prior missions, at 335 km compared to 290 km. The Falcon 9 Booster 1081, which completed its 6th launch to space and back, landed on the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ eight and a half minutes after lift-off. The mission also featured the mission extender variant of the Falcon 9 second stage, which has a gray band painted around the rocket to help maintain appropriate fuel temperatures during longer missions. Following this mission, SpaceX is scheduled for another Starlink launch from Florida, no earlier than midnight on Wednesday.

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