SpaceX is scheduled to launch 60 Starlink demonstration satellites on a Falcon 9 this Wednesday without using a traditional dispenser.
Over the weekend Elon Musk tweeted a picture showing 60 Starlink prototype satellites crammed into the fairing of a Falcon 9. Musk followed up the tweet saying that the satellites “flat-packed. No dispenser.” As well he said they are the production design. Each satellite weighs in at 200-300 kg.
First 60 @SpaceX Starlink satellites loaded into Falcon fairing. Tight fit. pic.twitter.com/gZq8gHg9uK
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 12, 2019
It was only last week that SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said at Satellite 2019 “this next batch of satellites will really be a demonstration set for us to see the deployment scheme and start putting our network together. We start launching satellites for actual service later this year.”
It seems odd that SpaceX would launch 60 production design satellites for demonstration purposes only. Will this batch be eventually entered into service or simply allowed to deorbit and burn up in the atmosphere?
Downplaying the possible success of satellite deployment Musk also tweeted “Much will likely go wrong on 1st mission. Also, 6 more launches of 60 sats needed for minor coverage, 12 for moderate.”
The launch is currently schedule for May 15th with a open that opens at 10:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. EDT.