The Confusing Numbering of Starlink Missions

Alongside the Paz satellite in early 2019 flew the very first test satellites for the Starlink program. These two, now deorbited, test Satellites known as Tintin A and B and were a V0.1 version of the Starlink Satellites and led the way for thousands of satellites to follow. The first dedicated Starlink launch took place on May 24th, 2019 out of SLC-40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and launched on Falcon 9 booster B1049. The satellites launched in this mission were all V0.9 Starlink satellites; and this is why we have two different names for each Starlink launch. One number refers to the launch number- while the other refers to the payload number.

The first launch of operation Starlink satellites occurred in November of 2019. This launch is referred to as either, Starlink V1.0 L1 (as it is the first launch of V1.0 satellites) or “the second Starlink mission”. This numbering difference was relatively simple to follow; just add 1 to the v1.0 number to get the launch number, until recently. Starlink V1.0 L17 was delayed in order to do additional inspections of B1049, the booster supporting the mission. B1049 is a flight leading booster, Starlink V1.0 L17 will be its 8th launch, so a bit more inspection and refurbishment is expected. Both Starlink V1.0 L18 and L19 have now launched; while L17 still sits at 39a. As a result Starlink V1.0 L18 is also known as “the 18th Starlink Mission” and Starlink V1.0 L19 is known as “the 19th Starlink Mission”. The “V1.0 L-” number stays with the specific batch of Starlink Satellites while the mission number is just dependent on launch order. It is unknown why specifically SpaceX did not choose to renumber L18 and L19, however it could be dependent on the specific positions in orbit they have planned for the satellites. If Starlink V1.0 L17 takes off as planned this weekend, it will be known as “the 20th Starlink Mission”.

After that, hopefully, we can rely on the “Starlink V1.0 L-” number being one less than the Starlink mission number… until a Version 2.0 that is…

Long Exposure of Starlink V1.0 L19 launch. Photo by: Zac Shaul – NHS

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