Through a thick blanket of clouds, SpaceX launched the first mission to begin forming Starlink’s third shell on Sunday.
Starlink mission 3-1 consisted of 46 satellites that will start the third Starlink orbital shell, which once completed will have 346 total satellites in its constellation.
The third shell will have its constellation complete a 560-kilometre circular orbit at 97.6 degrees. This orbit will be operating in can be considered a sun-synchronist orbit, according to NASASpaceFlight.com.
Usually, these orbits are used for imaging satellites, but SpaceX will use this orbit to improve coverage in the polar region.
Elon Musk says the third shell will provide Starlink services to polar regions and enable the company to have global satellite internet coverage.
These polar launches will enable complete coverage of Earth (where approved by local government) https://t.co/0ssHobwdp3
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2022
This would include the United States Canada, Sweden, Norway, Greenland (Denmark) and Iceland among other arctic nations.
This news is a welcome change for those dealing with less than ideal rural internet solutions throughout the north. However, it is still unclear when exactly the third shell will be up and running on Starlink’s side.
This launch was not only the first of the third shell; it was the 50th dedicated Starlink launch for SpaceX.
The 50th launch is a massive milestone for Starlink and SpaceX overall. However, the space company is set for a very busy 2022 and is hoping to reach more milestones.
So far, SpaceX has completed 17 Starlink and 29 overall missions in 2022 and is on track for more than 50 total missions in 2022.