SpaceX has plans to eventually circle the Earth with thousands of satellites to blanket the globe in high-speed internet, but it's all about baby steps for now. The company is preparing to fire a set of 60 satellite into orbit in the coming days, with CEO Elon Musk showing off an image of them stacked inside the nosecone of the company's Falcon 9 rocket for the first time.
SpaceX initially shared its plans to install a vast web of internet-beaming satellites in orbit in 2015, as a project known as Starlink. It now proposes to launch around 12,000 small communications satellites into low Earth orbit, which would work together within the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum to shower low-latency, broadband internet down on every corner of the globe.
If established, a network like Starlink could greatly improve on the speeds offered by current communications satellites, which live in geostationary orbit around 35,800 km (22,300 mi) above sea level. This means the light-speed signals used to communicate take a minimum of 0.23 seconds to complete the round trip. By operating in closer proximity in low Earth orbit, the Starlink could cut that distance by a factor of 30 to 100.
The company launched a pair of test satellites into orbit last February, called Tintin A and Tintin B, which were successfully deployed and were able to communicate with Earth-based stations. SpaceX has stayed relatively quiet regarding the Starlink project in the time since, but this week appears set to ramp things up in a significant way.
The above image shared by Musk on Twitter shows the first 60 Starlink satellites packed into the nosecone of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. Expanding on this, Musk said these are production design satellites, whereas the previous Tintin satellites were for demonstration purposes only. Whether these 60 satellites make into orbit is still an unknown, Musk said, while expanding on the numbers needed to establish basic coverage.
"Much will likely go wrong on 1st mission," Musk said. "Also, 6 more launches of 60 sats needed for minor coverage, 12 for moderate."
The company is set to perform a static fire test today (Monday), and then launch on Tuesday if all goes to plan. More details are expected on the day of launch.
Source: Twitter (Elon Musk)
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