back to article SpaceX is about to launch its first Starlink internet satellite sporting a sun visor following complaints by astronomers

After complaints from astroboffins, a SpaceX Starlink internet satellite is set to launch tonight with a deployable visor designed to stop sunlight reflecting off its metallic body. The bird will be part of another fleet of 60 Starlink satellites due to lift off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 2125 ET ( …

  1. SJA

    still amazed

    I'm still amazed at the progress that SpaceX has made in such a short time.

  2. Sanctimonious Prick
    Thumb Up

    Musk

    Wonders will never cease.

    Satellites with visors! What the he'll?

  3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Landing footage

    This should satisfy that commentard who kept complaining about the barge camera cutting out during landings.

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Pint

    Have I got this right?

    I'm assuming that the satellites are solar powered, and therefore need to keep a flat surface pointing at or close to the sun? And further assuming that they're annoyingly visible around local dusk and dawn: in daylight you're probably not looking much at the stars (except that big close one) and when they're in eclipse, they're in shadow anyway and are merely briefly in the way?

    So as I see it in daylight they need to point flat to the sun to charge batteries; as they approach local dusk and dawn they have to twist sideways to the sun; and in the dark bit they don't care and can point where they like? All while keeping data antennae pointing in the right direction?

    I'm impressed. No doubt a simple bit of programming with a clock, but nonetheless, I'm impressed. Have a beer, guys, if it works.

    1. Brangdon Bronze badge

      Re: Have I got this right?

      Read the update about it on their website if you want more information. https://www.spacex.com/updates/starlink-update-04-28-2020/

  5. Charles Smith

    Solution?

    Musky should launch a couple of Tesla built Hubble scopes into high earth orbit and lease time out to the star gazers. What's the betting he'd do it for half the cost and in a fraction of the time?

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: Solution?

      He could even send up a constellation (or "array") of many radio telescopes with enough total receiving area to add up to, say, a square kilometre. I'm not sure what you'd call it though.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Solution?

        May I suggest "SQuare Unit Instrument Not on Tera - Astro Boffins International Telescope"

        Or SQUINT-ABIT.

        Mines the one with the long exposure...

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Solution?

      That'd be nice and probably a sensible next step for university astro-science departments.

      It wouldn't really address the problem for all the earth bound amateurs who just want to stargaze, I'd mention the kids who'll pick a STEM career after taking their first cool star photo but it's more likely sci-fi has done more for that in the last 50 years.

      Fingers crossed that the visors work well enough to fix the light pollution issue and all future starlink boxes use them.

      1. Donk

        Re: Solution?

        Plenty of kids and adults I know get actively excited about seeing the Starlink satellites crossing the sky.

    3. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Solution?

      > launch a couple of Tesla built Hubble scopes

      Problem is there are many thousands of active telescopes on earth used for research. Some research doesn't need the biggest and the newest telescope, but requires long observation times they can only afford with smaller, older telescopes. Also, often they need to swap/fiddle with the instruments on the telescopes, something which would be rather difficult in orbit...

      Hubble-style orbital telescopes do have a use, but they don't replace terrestrial ones, especially given the price difference. For one hour on Hubble you can have half a year on some less popular university telescope, more then adequate if you're hunting exoplanets for instance.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vantablack

    Should coat them in vantablack, then they will reflect almost no light.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Vantablack

      Vantablack would absorb a lot of heat (on the sunny side), so they could make the most of that to generate power using the Seebeck effect.

      1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        Re: Seebeck effect

        How is the cool side staying cool?

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Seebeck effect

          How is the cool side staying cool?

          By heat radiation from the side away from the sun, quite elementary.

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Vantablack

      "coat them in vantablack" - and they'd probably burn up.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Vantablack

        You make it sound like a problem!

    3. Julz Silver badge

      Re: Vantablack

      Or perhaps just ask their buddies in the NRO what they do to reduce the observability of their spysats. Perhaps they have and sun-visors are the way to go but they didn't seem to feature in their old musings on the subject (link (pdf))

      p.s. Yes I know is mostly to do with RADAR stealth, but visual stealth is also a thing.

    4. Hopalong

      Re: Vantablack

      They tried a darkened satellite last year. I understand that although it reduced the brightness it caused a lot of thermal problems.

      Keeping a satellite cool is not easy where all you have is radiation to get rid of heat, so having a large non-reflective surface facing a nice big heat source, e.g. the Earth, does not help with your thermal management.

  7. IJD

    "It was the fifth trip into space for this particular first stage, suggesting the days of disposable boosters may well and truly be at an end."

    Except if you're Airbus (Ariane) or Boeing (SLS) or Lockheed (Atlas) or Russian or Chinese or...

    In other words, at an end for SpaceX, and maybe Blue Origin assuming they can catch up from being about 8 years behind SpaceX...

    1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

      Airbus are now working on reusable modules for the next generations of Ariane.

  8. JDX Gold badge

    FAirly neat but there's still going to be 12 thousand(!) of these blighers? They're used to provide some sort of giagantic space-WiFi array, is that right? Serving who -regular home internet or some more special purpose? Is anyone paying or asking for this service or is Elon assuming "if you build it they will come" and we'll all be signed up to MuskNet in 20 years... this sounds very reminiscent of a Doctor Who storyline (Tennant/Simm) to me.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Special purpose, as I understand, is latency. Light speed is faster through space than fiber optic. Starlink reckon they can do up link, crosslink, down link faster than over fiber optic over large distances eg transatlantic. Big banks are very willing to pay millions to get microseconds faster connections to market exchanges

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        I thought the idea of this was to provide broadband for remote communities.

        But, like affordable housing units, they will be last and least on the list.

      2. JDX Gold badge

        But it is so far a speculative investment, not something they were paid to do?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Serving regular home (or small business) Internet users who are currently stuck with poor options like:

      * users in remote areas (such as much of rural USA) who can only get high latency satellite service

      * users like myself who are in a small city with a duopoly of slow DSL (8M down, 800k up) or oversubscribed and data capped cable Internet.

      Every time I see a Starlink launch I turn into Philip J Fry: "shut up and take my money!" I'm in a relatively high latitude, so hoping to get on the public beta late this year.

      I'd imagine the service would also appeal to people who move regularly (including those who winter and summer in different locales). Picking up a "pizza box" and moving it to a new location sounds much better than sitting on hold with a telco.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Have you any idea how much this is actually going to cost? Its not going to be particularly cheap - I've seen $80 a month and $300 installation mentioned. That's not going to get much traction in the UK - I can already get 50MB unlimited for less than that in the UK in the sticks.(subject to confirmation at end of current contract but that's the advertising blurb). The only way he's going to make a profit in the long run is to seriously undercut everyone else until they go under and then bump up prices.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        * users in remote areas (such as much of rural USA) who can only get high latency satellite service

        * users like myself who are in a small city with a duopoly of slow DSL (8M down, 800k up) or oversubscribed and data capped cable Internet.

        So patching up the incompetence of US broadband justifies polluting the whole planet's sky? Those problems are only due to the excessive greed and the sick mono/duopoly situations of the US broadband market. Those are regulatory issues and don't need a technical solution.

        In other countries I've visited, farms in small villages had access to fiber to the premises at affordable rates. And if they didn't need fiber, they could have cheaper-yet-good DSL, and all this from several different ISPs. That is what a "free" market looks like.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Kessler is coming

      The primary purpose of all those Starlink sats is not to provide Internet to Earthies.

      After King Elon of Marsk establishes his colony with a seed population, the Starlinks will be commanded to collide and create a cloud of debris all around Earth. No more space launches or low orbit satellites for Earthies.

      Long Live King Elon!

      remember: you read it here first

  9. Paul

    no Vanta Black?

    surely Elon's heard of vanta black?

    1. JDPower

      Re: no Vanta Black?

      Surely you've heard of black absorbing heat?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: no Vanta Black?

        Surely you have heard of black body radiation.

        Black doesn't absorb heat, it absorbs a range of em radiation, which causes things to heat up.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: no Vanta Black?

          It also radiates a nice range of em (on the shaded side), which causes things to cool down. Just make sure there is sufficient heat conduction between the two sides, preferably via a thermocouple to extract electricity from it.

  10. Tom 7 Silver badge

    That's good to not see.

    Otherwise...

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