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

Eloise Marshall
May 17, 2019

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, speaks during a news conference in March after the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The project, named Starlink, a multi-stage operation meant to launch satellites into space that can provide the world with high-speed internet. The project is expected to be completed by 2027 and will consist which is almost 12,000 satellites - six times the number of all operational spacecraft now in orbit.

SpaceX's projection for Starlink puts its usable capacity higher than any single geostationary communications satellite in orbit today, and would significantly outpace any other publicly known low-Earth-orbit constellation under development.

The launch would be the first step in a competition that pits Elon Musk's company SpaceX against other companies, notably OneWeb, the enterprise backed by Softbank, Airbus, Richard Branson and other big investors that launched its first satellites in February.

It then postponed the launch by 24 hours.

To address this, Starlink aims to put around 12,000 satellites in orbits ranging from between 208 to 823 miles above the Earth's surface.

Furthermore, there is concern from some quarters that the upcoming launches of large satellite batches by SpaceX-and others pursuing similar aims, such as European company OneWeb-could increase the risk of risky collisions and space debris.

Elon Musk's SpaceX has made a business out of launching satellites for commercial customers, NASA and the USA military. The spaceflight company will live stream the mega liftoff starting at 10:30 p.m. EST on SpaceX's YouTube channel.

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That's a staggering figure - more than twice the total number of operational satellites that were in orbit in January 2015.

Musk said SpaceX would begin approaching customers later this year or next year.

"This is the most exciting new network we've seen in a long time", Mark Handley, a computer-networking researcher at University College London who has studied Starlink, previously told Business Insider.

All up, SpaceX plans to launch 4,000 satellites into its orbiting "mega-constellation". Starlink is only now authorized for operations in the United States.

SpaceX launched two prototype Starlink satellites in February 2018.

Getting the full constellation up and running will likely cost billions of dollars, and Musk has conceded that such efforts have bankrupted others, like the satellite operator Iridium. SpaceX chose krypton because it is less expensive than xenon, Musk said.

Nicholas Johnson, the chief scientist for Orbital Debris, said: "Any of these debris has the potential for seriously disrupting or terminating the mission of operational spacecraft in low Earth orbit". Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with a goal of colonizing Mars. "We can use the revenue from Starlink to fund Starship".

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