SpaceX to launch first Starlink satellites testing ‘VisorSat’ to block sun


The Falcon 9 launch in November 2019 carried 60 Starlink satellites.


It’s been nearly a year since SpaceX launched its first batch of Starlink broadband satellites, igniting a controversy over the surprising brightness of the orbiting routers that threatens to interfere with the observations of astronomers and other scientists. 

The company experimented with putting a dark coating on the satellites to resolve the issue, with reportedly mixed results. Then last month CEO Elon Musk reported that a “sunshade” had been developed to address the problem. Dubbed VisorSat, the system is exactly what it sounds like: a set of darkened shades that can be deployed to keep the sun from glinting off the bright parts of each satellite.

Musk said the first VisorSats would be included in the batch of 60 satellites set to launch from Florida early Sunday morning, and that future launches should be made up of all VisorSats as soon as June.

It’s not clear how many of the satellites to be launched Sunday will be equipped with the VisorSat system. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket that will be used has previously flown four times before, including for two of the prior seven Starlink launches. SpaceX is expected to attempt a landing of the rocket on a droneship in the Atlantic and to catch the two halves of the nose cone using separate ships equipped with huge nets. 

People in the US are going to need to get up pretty early on Sunday to watch the launch. It’s scheduled for 3:53 a.m. EDT from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. As usual, SpaceX will be livestreaming the launch and we’ll embed it here once it becomes available. The stream typically begins about 15 minutes before launch. 

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