A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to low-Earth orbit for the first time since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
Remember when SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched into outer space? It successfully made it into space and will replace the older and less powerful GPS satellite that is currently being used. But, as you know, that's old news. SpaceX launched another Starlink satellite. So, what's with all these launches? Well, it's actually a part of SpaceX's mission to create its gigantic Starlink constellation. The company was given the thumbs up to launch almost 12,000 Starlink satellites from the Federal Communications Commission.
The Starlink constellation will create internet coverage around the entire world. After this launch, SpaceX will have placed 595 Starlink satellites into space. And, all of them, except for a couple of satellites, have stayed in orbit. This specific mission is the second Starlink launch to include another company's satellite for the ride. Usually, SpaceX launches its satellites in groups of 60, but in a previous launch, they only included 58 satellites of their own, and three small imagine satellites from the company Planet. These ride-shares into space seem to be working quite well.
The company Spaceflight is a broker company that finds space for satellites on launches and managed to organize BlackSky's satellites to grab a ride into space. SpaceX also has its own ride-share program and works directly with customers. But the Starlink satellites that will enter space have a new feature on them. All satellites are equipped with deployable visors to prevent the Sun's light from reflecting on the satellites. The deployable visors, also known as sunshades, will decrease the Starlink spacecraft's brightness while orbiting in space. SpaceX already tested the sunshade out earlier this year, but this will be the first time the entire fleet is equipped with them.
The sunshades were a solution to the concern of astronomers. Many worried that the brightness the spacecraft would interfere with their space observations. So, that's when SpaceX decided to come up with sunshades, which were able to decrease the brightness without destroying the spacecraft. After a 63-day stay at the Space Station, Crew Dragon, with the two NASA astronauts aboard the spacecraft autonomously undocked and departed from the orbiting laboratory at 7:35 p.m. EDT on Saturday, August 1.
The Demo-2 mission is the final major milestone for SpaceX's human spaceflight system to be certified by NASA for operational crew missions to and from the International Space Station. Once the Demo-2 mission is complete, and the SpaceX and NASA teams have reviewed all the data for certification, NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi will fly on Dragon's first six-month operational mission (Crew-1) targeted for late September.