Elon Musk posted this picture of the first 60 Starlink satellites packed densely into the fairing of the Falcon scheduled to launch in a few hours.

starlinks crammed into falcon

There doesn't appear to be a launcher or ejector to launch the satellites from the fairing once in orbit, so how will they be moved to their correct orbits?

Will they just be dropped off one by one, is there an ejector mechanism, or is there some other way to correctly configure their orbits?

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    $\begingroup$ I cannot wait till the launch tonight when it happens and we get to see it on the value. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    May 15, 2019 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ They will spin up the 2nd stage really fast w/ thrusters and then just let go of them all at once? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 16, 2019 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ the fairing will have been ejected long before the satellites are released, unless I'm very much mistaken $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    May 16, 2019 at 19:08

1 Answer 1


They will spin the upper stage, and release them a few at a time, then spin it up faster, and release more. Source.

In order to save mass, each of the 60 satellites will not have its own release mechanism, such as a spring. Instead, Musk explained, the Falcon rocket's upper stage will begin a very slow rotation, and each of the satellites will be released in turn with a different amount of rotational inertia.

"It will almost seem like spreading a deck of cards on a table," Musk said. There may actually be some contact between the Starlink satellites, he added, but they are designed to handle it.

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    $\begingroup$ Will they be able to get these satellites in the wide range of orbits needed using the spinning? Also, won't that potentially induce a spin in the individual sats? Do they have attitude-control methods of their own such as reaction wheels, RCS, or magnetorquers? EDIT: Never mind, the article says they have their own ion thrusters. $\endgroup$
    – user31448
    May 16, 2019 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ +1 btw I've used your reference in What performance specification would be lower for Krypton than for Xenon in Hall effect thrusters? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 16, 2019 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @RangaRutiserSundar The only goal of the initial deployment of the satellites is to prevent them from colliding for a period of time. That shouldn't be an issue. They will all separate after that, as you noticed. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    May 17, 2019 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ Did this end up actually being the deployment method? All the Starlink missions Ive watched so far have the entire stack of satellites being released at the same point - not, as the Musk quote has it, with each satellite being released in turn. $\endgroup$
    – Moo
    Jun 14, 2020 at 10:08

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