Unless you’ve lived the last few years in a technical black hole, you’ve probably heard of Elon Musk and read stories about his innovative ideas and startups. There’s definitely no lack of stuff to look forward to from the guy. From sleek electric vehicles, “hyperloop” transport systems, recycled rockets, and Mars colonies. We’re going to discuss one of his more exciting interests in this post, called “Starlink”. The consequences it has for both the internet and the world at large. Here’s the latest SpaceX news about Starlink and why you’re going to get excited.
In 2015, Muѕk bеgаn probing thе FCC about tеѕting a “global broadband” ѕуѕtеm, and in Sерtеmbеr оf 2017 filеd applications for a satellite-based broadband network called (you guessed) Starlink. With the goal of potentially creating a low-cost, satellite-based broadband network capable of providing internet connectivity to the entire world.
Sounds pretty straightforward but what makes SpaceX Starlink different than traditional internet satellite? Well, to put it plainly. Whilst satellite internet has been around for years, it has suffered from high latency, poor links, and spotty coverage. SpaceX plans to put a “constellation” of satellites in low earth orbit with Starlink. Thereby delivering high-speed, cable-like internet to every corner of the globe. The total cost of the project is estimated to be about $10 billion.
The Road Ahead
To give you a sense of how daunting a challenge this is, here are a few numbers: currently, there are only 1,459 satellites in orbit around the globe, along with 2,600 inactive. To achieve their target coverage, SpaceX would need to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit. That’ll take a lot of rockets, a lot of fuel and a lot of money.
The project is ambitious, to say the least, but it’s likely the payoff will be massive. Imagine making blazing quick internet available all the time! Whether you’re in the midst of a busy city or deep in the jungle of the Amazons. Slated for as early as 2024, this potential broadband network isn’t that far away. If this project comes to fruition, the low latency internet will be made available to areas that historically had either bad or no coverage at all. It also remains to be seen the effect such a network would have on Earth. Not to be contained, Elon Musk is already looking beyond our pale blue dot. In the long run, SpaceX plans to build a similar device to use for potential attempts at colonization on Mars. The Starlink project is to lay the groundwork for those efforts.
The First Successful Launch
SpaceX Starlink took a big move on 22 February 2018: The project successfully launched the first two Starlink test satellites (named Tintin A and Tintin B) from California’s Vandenberg Air Force base.
It is still a very early development: The prototype satellites are specifically designed to prove the feasibility of the Starlink project. There is no indication that they will become part of Starlink’s official grid until it begins to go up. The milestone, however, remains a particularly important one, which shows the project is ongoing and in good health.
After the successful launch of the very first satellites, Starlink got some more good news. The FCC approved the project’s official request for broadband services. This ensures that once Starlink has enough satellites in orbit to provide a commercial internet service, they are free to sell it in the U.S. Of course, a few satellites are a long way from the anticipated 800 or so. However FCC approval is still a significant green light for the project. Although the organization has acknowledged some trepidation about the large number of planned Starlink satellites. Approval to a rigorous orbital debris management will be a requirement. To put it another way, SpaceX Starlink would need to clean up all the space mess.
A Little Game … With Facebook?
Facebook is investing in a SpaceX Starlink like project that could include some fascinating orbital space competition. We don’t know anything about the project yet, but we know that Facebook is creating a house-based satellite called “Athena” specifically to provide underdeveloped areas with internet access.
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