3
$\begingroup$

This answer to Why does the video feed always fail during Falcon 9 landings? shows that SpaceX seems to be "getting better at" or "less shy about" broadcasting continuous live video of the Falcon 9 landing on a boat drone ship.

Explanations for the previous (almost always) failures of the video feed were that the landing somehow interfered with the satellite uplink from the drone ship, though I still don't understand the physics of that explanation, as the antenna is not likely to be so big that it's directionality was so narrow that vibrations would cause it to point so far away from the receiving satellite that the link would break.

The SpaceX live broadcast of booster & boat's eye view of the GPS III Space Vehicle 05 were both uninterrupted; have they made some upgrades to the system?

Question: The SpaceX live broadcast of booster & boat's eye view of the GPS III Space Vehicle 05 Mission June 17, 2021, (video cued at T+ 07:52) both show the landing without interruption. Have they made some upgrades to the system? Was it just "chance"? Might continuous live feeds of the landings now be more commonplace?

Screenshots from GPS III Space Vehicle 05 Mission June 17, 2021, (video cued at T+ 07:52) which shows continuous video coverage all the way down from the 1st stage camera as well as continuous coverage from the camera on the boat ship:

Screenshot of SpaceX's "GPS III Space Vehicle 05 Mission" video, June 17, 2021 Screenshot of SpaceX's "GPS III Space Vehicle 05 Mission" video, June 17, 2021

https://space.stackexchange.com/a/45473/12102

$\endgroup$
4
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I suspect the answer to this question, as with almost any question about SpaceX, is going to be "SpaceX is a private company, not even publicly traded, so they are not required to publish any information (and they usually don't)." However, the start of the improvement in coverage seems to largely coincide with the time that antennas for this new Internet startup called "Starlink" were first spotted on the drone ships, and the first appearance of uninterrupted video a couple of months ago seems to coincide with the almost-completion of the first orbital shell. $\endgroup$ Jun 18 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag I'd accept that as an answer if you wrote it up. I wasn't aware that that was done, but it certainly makes sense. It certainly addresses "Did they make some upgrades to the system?" $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 18 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag I'd accept that as an answer if you wrote it up. I wasn't aware that that was done, but it certainly makes sense. It certainly addresses "Did they make some upgrades to the system?" and I've slightly adjusted the wording of the question accordingly. I think there is an other question or answer somewhere about Falcon 9 having a Starlink antenna as well, I'll look for it now, though maybe it simply downlinks video to the ship first. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 18 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I was thinking of my guess that these are patch antennas I'm primarily interested in the broadcast from the antenna on the ship, addressing the booster feed is not required for an answer/ $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 18 at 9:40
5
$\begingroup$

Unless and until we get some official communication from SpaceX and/or Elon Musk, there is unfortunately no way to answer this question definitively.

However, as with most things SpaceX, there is a community of enthusiasts that are spotting various changes to the various vehicles involved, and their observations allow us some educated guesses.

Most notably, already quite a while ago, several Port Canaveral SpaceX fleet watchers spotted Starlink antennas installed on both Just Read The Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You, the two Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships operated by SpaceX.

Here is a video of Of Course I Still Love You in April, 2021, clearly showing the Starlink dish. I have seen on NASASpaceFlight.com's "Fleetcam" 24×7 live robotic camera at Port Canaveral that Just Read The Instructions has a terminal in the same place, but I could not find photographic evidence of it.

According to an article by Evelyn Arevalo, SpaceX filed an application for an FAA license to operate mobile Starlink terminals on several vessels, including the two ASDSs, already in September, 2020, and a "blanket" license to operate Starlink on vessels, vehicles, etc. in March, 2021.

Also, recently, SpaceX completed the first orbital shell of the Starlink constellation. (More precisely, as of late May 2021, SpaceX has launched all satellites for the first orbital shell, but it will still take between weeks and months for the latest ones to maneuver themselves into their desired operational orbits.)

The installation of the Starlink terminals on the drone ships, the FAA filings, and the gradual buildup of the Starlink constellation seem to coincide and correlate with the improvement in the stability, reliability, and quality of the landing feeds.

This leads one to the possible conclusion that SpaceX may be using Starlink for (some of) the landing feeds, and that the improvements in quality and reliability may be related to this.

$\endgroup$
5
  • $\begingroup$ Then, there can be a natural "follow-on": what was the satcom system used before switching to Starlink and why was it more critical to platform stability? (just hoping you have the answer too!) $\endgroup$
    – Ng Ph
    Jun 19 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ @NgPh that's a GREAT question! Did they use TDRS or a (now) SpaceX competitor like Orbcom or Iridium? Please consider posting it as a new question! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 20 at 9:38
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh, looking at pcs of OCISLY, I can spot a quite big Intellian terminal. Hence, the size of the dish and its tracking mechanism seems to be the source of problems noticed. To use a directional VSAT on ship you must comply to stringent dish pointing requirements by ITU (and therefore also FCC in US). Starlink dish is smaller => broader beam. Also, SpaceX can tweak their own terminal for more local caching to mask uplink interruptions, especially if that terminal is dedicated to the (non-critical) video feed. It could be also that the quality is a result of a redundant uplink signal path. $\endgroup$
    – Ng Ph
    Jun 20 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @NgPh If the ratio of the size of a dish to the particular wavelength the dish is using is bigger, then the beam will be narrower, but that alone doesn't mean that it's the source of the problem. One needs a mechanism that points the dish away from it's satellite by an angle larger than the beam's half-width. A question about this would allow for an answer post, which could allow for an image to be posted and an argument convincingly developed, discussed, and voted on. Once my coffee kicks in I'll post the question, I think you can add an excellent answer! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 20 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh, don't think it is worth it as there are so many parameters, but go ahead. $\endgroup$
    – Ng Ph
    Jun 21 at 8:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.