SpaceX’s first internet satellites are set to launch Sunday

Elon Musk’s rocket company has been working on getting satellite broadband off the ground for years. Now the Falcon 9 is set to launch the first test.

On Sunday, a week after launching its huge Falcon Heavy rocket, SpaceX is set to blast off another test of a long-awaited new product.

More than three years ago we learned Elon Musk and his rocket company were working on developing satellites to provide low-cost internet access around the world. The first pair of demonstration satellites for the company’s Starlink service will finally be launched into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 on Sunday, according to correspondence between the company and the Federal Communications Commission.

The main payload for the launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California will be the Spanish government’s Paz satellite, designed to capture imagery of the Earth down to the single-meter scale. But there had been unconfirmed reports for several weeks now from space industry sources like that a secondary passenger on the flight would be the Starlink demonstration setup.

SpaceX itself has been relatively mum about the debut of its Starlink satellites, and about the entire program itself. However, a letter from SpaceX to the Federal Communications Commission, posted to the FCC website Monday, makes it pretty clear what will be aboard the Falcon 9 when it launches.

The letter refers to two satellites, called Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, that will be launched as a secondary payload on the Paz mission. The FCC granted SpaceX a license in November to launch this pair of satellites as part of a test mission. In its application, the company describes the test objectives:

“In addition to proving out the development of the satellite bus and related subsystems, the test program for the Microsat-2a and -2b spacecraft will also validate the design of a phased array broadband antenna communications platform.”

Putting that all together: SpaceX is testing internet broadband satellites that will be launched along with the Paz satellite.

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