Mark Handley / University College London / Reuters / Mike Blake / Business Insider
Espaciox The plans are about to launch their first Starlink Internet satellites.
Starlink could bring cheap, fast Internet to remote areas, as well as moving vehicles such as airplanes, ships and cars. It would also make international teleconferences and online games almost free of delays.
- The plan calls for the launch of nearly 12,000 satellites in orbit, but Elon Musk said it would take a fraction of that to start selling the service.
- According to Musk, the initial service can be up and running in about a year, with a global service a few months later and a profitable service, about 1,000 satellites, a few months later.
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Starlink, SpaceX's planned network of thousands of interconnected satellites, can arrive as a functional global Internet service provider sooner than expected.
The ultimate goal of the project is to launch nearly 12,000 satellites in orbit around the Earth, link them to lasers and give customers access to the Internet system through flat antennas the size of a pizza that SpaceX calls end-user terminals.
If you know, a floating mesh network of this kind could provide ultra high speed and low-speed Internet access to almost 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 give time for a software update and give engineers the opportunity to "check everything three times".
Elon Musk / SpaceX through TwitterPrior to the planned launch, SpaceX founder Elon Musk revealed new details about the long-term plan for Starlink. Musk was upset at the idea that launching anywhere near 12,000 satellites is necessary to establish a fully functional Internet service that would make his company earn money.
"For the system to be economically viable, it's really of the order of 1,000 satellites," Musk said during a call with reporters. "What obviously are many satellites, but it's less than 10,000 or 12,000."
At this time, around 2,000 operational satellites orbit the Earth (although many thousands of dead satellites exist in "cemetery" orbits). SpaceX plans to launch approximately 60 spacecraft at a time with its Falcon 9 rocket and is looking to launch at least one Starlink mission per month for the next two years, according to figures provided by Musk.
"I think that in a year and a half, maybe 2 years, if things go well, it's likely that SpaceX has more satellites in orbit than all the other satellites combined," he said. "Basically, most of the satellites in orbit will be those of SpaceX."
But Starlink could be functional even before that. If there are no major problems with the satellites, large delays in the launch or problems in the manufacture of end-user terminals, the first customers can get access in the next 12 months.
An "initial" service in the United States, one that Musk said SpaceX could sell, should be possible with 400 satellites in orbit, according to Musk. Meanwhile, global and "significant" service should occur with about 800 satellites, he said.
"We will start selling the service, initially, around 400 satellites," Musk said. "We'll probably start making some anticipated connectivity sales, if things go well, probably later this year or early next."
The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the types of frequencies that companies such as SpaceX can use for telecommunications devices, gave the company the deadlines to launch its Starlink satellites.
SpaceX has until April 2024 to deploy half of its 4,400 low-Earth orbit satellites, and the rest by April 2027. For the 7,500 low-Earth orbit satellites remaining "very" remaining, SpaceX has until November 2024 to launch half and November 2027 to send the rest. If SpaceX does not meet these contractual deadlines with the US government. The FCC may choose to freeze the maximum number of satellites in whatever the company has in orbit at that time.
Musk said that Starlink's demand would determine how many satellites SpaceX will launch. This is because each satellite will have approximately 1 terabit of functional bandwidth, or enough to transmit 4K video to approximately 1,100 people at a time.
If the 1,000 orbiting Starlink satellites required to keep the project black can not meet the demand and the company has to launch more, Musk said that would be "a very good thing".
"It means there's a lot of demand for the system," he said.
However, Musk repeatedly emphasized that the estimates of his timeline depend on many things that go well and few things that go wrong, especially with the first 60 satellites.
"It is possible that some of these satellites will not work," he said. "So we do not want to tell anything until it's incubated."
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