Elon Musk’s SpaceX is planning to launch a batch of Starlink satellites this week.
The launch, subject to the usual weather considerations, is scheduled for 16:49 EST (21.49 GMT), with a backup time available at 18:47 EST (23.47 GMT) on January 6th.
The SpaceX mission, officially dubbed Starlink 4-5, is looking to place this batch in an orbital plane of 53.2 degrees to the Equator. In order to achieve this orbital position, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch from the Kennedy Space Center but will be aimed southeast and to the North of the Bahama islands.
It is not known how many Starlink satellites will be on board but usually a SpaceX flight carries between 48-53 craft on each mission. The rocket’s booster is planned to land on the drone vessel, ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’, waiting in the Atlantic.
Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s VP/Starlink commercial sales, said last month that the Starlink network is already providing internet service to consumers in more than 20 countries.
On January 13th, another SpaceX launch is planned. This mission will carry dozens of paying satellite customers on the rocket’s Transporter 3 flight with smaller satellites. This flight will see the rocket return to Earth and land at an onshore pad at Cape Canaveral.
The much-delayed legal action from SES against Intelsat over the division of FCC C-band incentive payments is scheduled to begin on February 7th. Two weeks have been allocated for the action.
While subject to last-minute delays and Court rules over the Covid anxieties, the lawyers in the action have agreed that witnesses might appear in person, or virtually, or both.
The pre-trial deadlines have been set and are that counsel for the litigants can file supplementary depositions on or before January 10th, with counter-depositions being filed by January 18th. The litigants have jointly agreed to provide their lists of incontrovertible facts by January 12th in an attempt to narrow the issues in the actual trial. An agreed position on admissible exhibits will be filed by the parties on January 28th. A final pre-trial conference is scheduled for February 1st subject to the Court’s availability.
The essence of the action is a dispute over how the FCC’s C-band incentive payments are allocated. SES is arguing that under the terms and agreements within the C-Band Alliance (“the Consortium Agreement”), and where Intelsat and SES were lead participants, it was agreed that the FCC’s payments would be made on a 50/50 basis between SES and Intelsat.
SES had also been arguing for punitive damages against Intelsat but that action has been dropped.
Elon Musk is preparing his giant Starship at its Boca Chica, south Texas launch site, but an expected approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is not now expected before the end of February.
There have been more than 18,000 comments filed into the FAA in regard to its draft comments on the launch of Musk’s Starship on environmental grounds. Musk had hoped to have the approval in place by December 31st 2021. The FAA announced its delay on December 28th.
SpaceX has to respond to each of the comments.
Musk is on record saying that his team would have a bunch of tests of both the Starship and ‘Super Heavy’ booster in terms of engine firings ahead of an actual trial launch. However, there is no guarantee that the FAA will not further extend its work, and thus further delay any launches.
Musk needs the rocket to eventually work as part of his plan to load the vehicle with up to about 400 Starlink satellites for bulk-launches.