Published: Sat, May 18, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

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

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

The Starlink satellites were to be launched from the Cape Canaveral's Complex 40 launch pad in Florida to liftoff on a Falcon 9 rocket as a 90-minute launch window was to open at 11.00 pm EDT Wednesday (8.30 am IST Thursday).

Hawthorne-based SpaceX plans to try again tonight to launch the first of what could eventually be thousands of satellites created to provide space-based internet service around the globe.

SpaceX shared details about its largely secretive Starlink constellation program March 15, providing updated targets for commercial service, details about satellite design and the thought process behind why the company's upper target is 12,000 satellites - about six times the number functioning in orbit for the rest of the world combined.

The satellites will centre using a low earth orbit to link to ground terminals on Earth to provide internet connection. And rival OneWeb, which has attracted billions in investment from companies including SoftBank and Qualcomm, already has the first six satellites of its constellation up. The rural areas will be benefitted more by this satellite launch.

If the venture turns successful, it will make SpaceX the first operator of an internet satellite network and also the sole competitor in this domain with its own rockets.

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

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Not only does it pose a threat to space travel, but technologies such as mobile phones, television, Global Positioning System and weather related services also rely on satellites, so a cataclysmic series of crashes could pose a threat to our already over-reliance for satellites.

But Sachdeva has raised questions about whether SpaceX is wise to plan a constellation of satellites that could eventually total 12,000. The Starlink team is now led by Mark Juncosa, SpaceX's VP of vehicle engineering and an eight-year veteran of the company.

Musk said Starlink will have continual coverage of limited geographies at around 400 satellites, or seven launches including tomorrow's mission.

It then postponed the launch by 24 hours.

The biggest problems with satellite-based internet service right now are that it's too pricey for common consumers, and the satellites are so far from Earth that they have frustrating dial-up era lag times.

Last year, SpaceX launched a pair of prototype satellites to test the service. The reason for launching so many satellites is that those in lower orbits do not provide as much coverage as those positioned at higher altitudes. Starlink revenue would also help fund a base on the moon, he said.

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