SpaceX launches satellite service to deliver internet to every corner of the globe


Michael Staines
Michael Staines

08.31 24 May 2019


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SpaceX has launched the first satellites for a new service aiming to deliver reliable and affordable broadband internet to every corner of the globe.

CEO Elon Musk says the Starlink satellite network will provide internet to parts of the world that have never been connected before.

SpaceX plans to fire 1,200 internet satellites into orbit by the mid 2020s.

The first batch was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida this morning and all sixty have been released into orbit as planned.

They were deployed at an altitude of 440km and then used onboard propulsion systems to reach an operational altitude of 550km.

Satellite-based internet already exists – however it is very expensive and offers very slow connection speeds.

This is because the satellites involved are too far away from the planet. SpaceX is one of a number of companies aiming to take advantage of new technology allowing for the deployment of satellites in ‘low-Earth orbit.’

The Starlink network will eventually be parked in two separate ‘flocks’ – with one constellation made up of 4,409 satellites and the second comprising of 7,518.

The larger constellation will orbit at a slightly lower altitude.

Satellite internet race

Companies like OneWeb, TeleSat and Amazon are also looking to join the satellite internet race.

OneWeb launched six satellites in February – but with 60 now in Orbit SpaceX has taken a giant leap ahead of its competitors.

Mr Musk has said he views the project as pivotal in terms of financing his wider goal of flying customers to Mars and eventually establishing a colony on the Red Planet.

“We think this is a key stepping stone on the way toward establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon,” he said.

The satellites were launched on-board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 3:30am this morning Irish time.

The company expects that it will take a further day to confirm that they are all functioning as planned.

Starlink

At a press event last week, Mr Musk sounded a note of caution about the mission.

“There is a lot of new technology here,” he said.

“It’s possible that some of these satellites may not work. In fact, it’s possible, a small possibility, that all of the satellites may not work.”

It was the heaviest payload ever carried by a SpaceX rocket – weighing in at 18.5 tons, with each satellite accounting for 227kg.

Shortly after the launch, the company successfully landed the rocket booster on a floating platform at sea – the 40th time it has achieved the feat.

It is the third time this particular rocket booster has made the journey into space before landing back on Earth.


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