SpaceX to launch first satellites for Elon Musk's Starlink internet service

16 Mai, 2019, 11:37 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • SpaceX is launching 60 satellites into space

The launch is a small part of what SpaceX ultimately wants to be a much grander project: a group of potentially thousands of satellites swirling over Earth that the company says could eventually make available low-priced internet for a significant portion of the world's population that isn't yet online.

SpaceX's first launch with a large number of Starlink satellites was pushed back 24 hours, with a new launch window opening at 10:30 p.m.

Over the weekend, Musk shared an image of the spacecraft packed inside the nosecone of a Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX successfully tested the engines of its Falcon 9 rocket on Monday, and the mission is awaiting launch at Space Launch Complex-40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Musk told reporters during a conference call Wednesday that the satellites in the first batch will be virtually identical to the mass production version.

As a result, SpaceX successfully petitioned the FCC to fly some of its satellites in the lower orbit, based on what the company had learned from those test satellites.

But Sachdeva has raised questions about whether SpaceX is wise to plan a constellation of satellites that could eventually total 12,000. "In fact there is a small possibility that all of the satellites might not work". SpaceX boss Elon Musk tweeted it would take six more launches - 360 more satellites - for "minor coverage", and a dozen more launches - 720 satellites - for "moderate coverage".

"It's a heck of a lot of launches".

SpaceX has competition from other heavily funded companies. Around an hour into the mission, the satellites will be deployed.

In its final form, Starlink will consist of almost 12,000 satellites - six times the number of all operational spacecraft now in orbit - in several orbital "shells".

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Completing the project may cost $10 billion or more, according to Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX.

Musk plans to send as many as 12,000 satellites into space as soon as 2024 to make high-speed internet available from space across the world. But putting up a constellation of thousands of satellites is a very expensive proposition. The satellites in OneWeb's first-generation constellation of 600 operational satellites and 50 spares are created to carry 10 gigabits per second each, meaning the system should presumably offer 6 terabits per second of aggregate capacity (OneWeb did not respond to a May 14 request to confirm that number). The booster SpaceX is using has already flown twice, highlighting the Falcon 9's reusable capabilities, and it's scheduled to once again land on a droneship at sea after the launch.

Musk said he was well aware of that history.

Musk said Starlink's newest 60 satellites carry phased array antennas and ion propulsion units that run on krypton instead of the typical xenon gas.

OneWeb, founded by Greg Wyler in 2012, has said his goal is to "connect every school in the world, and bridge the digital divide". Later generations would include intersatellite links and other upgrades, he said, though he didn't give a timeframe for when those would be introduced.

The US Federal Communications Commission has approved 13,000 new satellites in the past year - six times more than the figure now in orbit.

Musk said Starlink user terminals will also use phased array, electronically steered antennas - a technology widely considered essential for the success of low-Earth-orbit broadband constellations.

Elon Musk's SpaceX has made a business out of launching satellites for commercial customers, NASA and the US military. SpaceX will likely start selling connectivity later this year or early next year if all goes well, he said.

SpaceX wants to beam cheap broadband all over the planet. Starlink revenue would also help fund a base on the moon, he said.

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