SpaceX is gearing-up to launch at least 100 more Starlink high-speed internet satellites in two launch missions before the year ends.

The first of these two launches will take place Oct. 17. It will see SpaceX add 60 more Starlink satellites to the 60 it orbited last May 24.

The launch next week will see a SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 medium-lift launch vehicle blast-off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida. The small satellites (smallsats) in th e group will be deployed at an orbital altitude of 450 km.

The last launch for the year is scheduled for Nov. 4 and no details have been released. But it seems prudent to assume SpaceX might launch a further 60 Starlink smallsats into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Should the November launch pan out, it will mean SpaceX will have successfully pulled-off four Starlink launches in 2019. This launch cadence will be accelerated in 2020 as SpaceX strives to orbit all 12,000 of its Starlink smallsats by the mid-2020s.

Of the 60 birds placed into LEO on May 24, 57 remain operational while three are confirmed to have failed. These production design smallsats are now being used to test various aspects of the Starlink superconstellation network, including deorbiting. These smallsats don't have satellite interlink capabilities and are only able to communicate with stationary ground antennas.

The Starlink project aims to develop a low-cost, high-performance satellite bus and requisite customer ground transceivers to implement a new space-based internet communication system. The Starlink superconstellation will consist of cross-linked smallsats with a mass ranging from 100 kg to 500 kg.

It will operate in the high frequency bands above 24 GHz. This frequency will allow steerable earth station transmit antennas to have “a wider geographic impact and significantly lower satellite altitudes magnify the impact of aggregate interference from terrestrial transmissions.”

SpaceX will mass-produce the satellites, benefiting from economies of scale.

“We’re going to try and do for satellites what we’ve done for rockets,” said SpaceX founder Elon Musk back in 2018.

“In order to revolutionize space, we have to address both satellites and rockets. Smaller satellites are crucial to lowering the cost of space-based Internet and communications.”

SpaceX plans to deploy its 12,000 Starlink smallsats in three orbital shells. It will initially place 1,600 smallsats in a 550 km (340 mile)-altitude shell in phase one. It will then deploy 2,800 Ku- and Ka-band spectrum smallsats at 1,150 km (710 miles) and 7,500 V-band smallsats at 340 km (210 miles).

A SpaceX Starlink satellite
A SpaceX Starlink satellite in orbit (illustration) SpaceX