Mark Handley / University College London / Reuters / Mike Blake / Business Insider
- SpaceX plans is about to launch its first Starlink internet satellites.
- Linklink could bring cheap, fast internet to remote areas as well as moving vehicles like airplanes, ships, and cars. It would also make international teleconferencing and online gaming nearly lag-free.
- The plan calls for launching nearly 1
- According to Musk, initial service may be up and running in about a year, with global service in few months after that, and profitable service – about 1,000 satellites – a few months later.
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Starlink – SpaceX's planned network of thousands of interlinked satellites – may arrive as a functional global internet service provider sooner than expected.
The ultimate goal of the project is to launch nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit around Earth, link them with laser beams, and give customers access to the internet system via flat, pizza-size antennas that are SpaceX calls end-user terminals.
If realized, such as a floating mesh network could bring access to ultra-high-speed, low -lay internet to pretty much every corner of the world.
This week, SpaceX was scheduled to launch the first 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. But the launch was delayed twice and now Musk says it will take place in about a week .. The delay, SpaceX said, will allow time for a software update and give engineers a chance to "triple-check everything."
Elon Musk / SpaceX via Twitter Ahead of the planned launch, SpaceX founder Elon Musk revealed new details about the longterm plan for Starlink. Musk bristled at the notion that launching anywhere close to 12,000 satellites is necessary to establish a fully functional internet service that would make his company money.
"For the system to be economically viable, it's really on the order of 1,000 satellites," Musk said during a call with reporters. "Which is obviously a lot of satellites, but it's way less than 10,000 or 12,000." Right now, about 2,000 operational satellites orbit Earth (though many thousands of dead satellites exist in "graveyard" orbits). SpaceX plans to launch roughly 60 spacecraft at a time with its workhorse Falcon 9 rockets and is looking to launch at least one Starlink mission a month over the next two years, based on figures provided by Musk.
"I think within a year And a half, maybe 2 years – if things go well – SpaceX will probably have more satellites in orbit than all other satellites combined, "he said. "Basically, a majority of the satellites in orbit will be SpaceX's."
But Starlink could be functional even sooner than that. If there are any major issues with the satellites, extensive launch delays, or problems manufacturing end-user terminals, the first customers may get access within the next 12 months. "An initial" service in the US – one that Musk said SpaceX could sell – should be possible with 400 orbit satellites, according to Musk. Meanwhile, global and "significant" service should happen with about 800 satellites, he said.
"We'll start selling service, initially, around the 400 satellites," Musk said. "We'll probably start some sales of connectivity – if things go well – probably later this year or early next year."
The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the types of frequencies companies like SpaceX can use for telecommunications devices, gave the company deadlines for launching its Starlink satellites.
SpaceX has until April 2024 to deploy half of its 4,400 low-Earth orbit satellites, and the rest at April 2027. For the remaining 7,500 "very" low-Earth -orbit satellites, SpaceX has until November 2024 to launch half, and November 2027 to send up the rest. If SpaceX has these contractual deadlines with the US government, the FCC can find the maximum number of satellites at whatever company has in orbit at that point.
Musk indicated that demand for Starlink would determine how many satellites SpaceX launches. That's why every satellite will have about 1 terabit of functional bandwidth, or enough to serve streaming 4K video to about 1,100 people at once.
If the 1,000 Starlink satellites in orbit that are required to keep the project in the black can't Keep up with demand, and the company has to launch more, Musk said that would be "a very good thing."
"It means that there is a lot of demand for the system," he said.
However, Musk repeatedly emphasized that his timelines depend on a lot of things going right, and some things going wrong – especially with the first 60 satellites.
"It's possible that these satellites may not work," he said . "So we don't want to count anything until it's hatched."
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