Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX aims to fund their space program by offering Starlink internet services. The rocket company is dedicated to building a satellite constellation that will beam low latency, high-speed broadband internet across the globe. They have conducted five missions and successfully deployed a total of 300 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit, out of the 12,000 that will make up the Starlink constellation. Currently, 290 satellites are in good condition to become operational. According to SpaceX officials, it will take about 400 satellites to establish minor internet coverage and 800 satellites for moderate coverage, they plan to roll-out service in parts of Northern United States and Canada before the year ends.
The sixth Starlink mission will launch another fleet of 60 satellites next week atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Lift-off scheduled for no earlier than Saturday, March 14 at approximately 9:35 a.m. EDT with a backup date of Sunday, March 15 at 9:14 a.m. EDT.
Starlink satellites are equipped with one solar array instead of two, minimizing potential points of failure pic.twitter.com/bJirVr67fF— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 24, 2019
During a recent United States Air Force symposium, the founder and CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk, shared that SpaceX has been manufacturing Starlink satellites in-house faster than they can launch them, and that they would need their next-generation Starship rocket for launch costs to decrease. He stated:
"The cost of the satellite has dropped below the cost of transporting it to orbit. We really need Starship to carry Starlink in order to get the total delivered cost to be much better than it is today."
Falcon 9 can launch up to 60 satellites atop its fairing, the company aims to conduct Starlink dedicated missions twice a month. According to SpaceX's website, a Falcon 9 launch cost is about $62 million. Starship is currently under development, once operational it will be capable of launching 400 satellites on a single mission, that would enable SpaceX to complete the constellation sooner. In 2019, Musk said that Starship launch will be significantly cheaper "We consider our operational costs would probably be around $2 million per flight." SpaceX representatives said that the first operational Starship flights could loft satellites as early as 2021.
The U.S. Air Force is actively testing Starlink broadband internet on a variety of military platforms. The program known as Global Lightning tested Starlink internet last year. Starlink terminals were fixed to the cockpit of a C-12J Huron twin-engine turboprop military airplane, they beamed encrypted internet from space while in flight. Program officials said the tests demonstrated significantly higher internet connection and data transfer rates. According to Chief William Roper, Starlink internet satellites will be tested during a U.S Air Force "massive" live-fire exercise scheduled for April 8.
Besides providing the military with better communication to defend the nation, SpaceX targets to offer their broadband internet services to the general public. SpaceX officials stated that both, the Starlink terminal and service cost will be affordable. The Starlink network will benefit countries where internet connectivity is too expensive, unreliable, or non-existent. Starlink will benefit the world in a variety of ways. The constellation will transmit its signal faster to anywhere on the planet at the speed of light, bypassing the limitations of our current internet infrastructure that involves fiber optic cables and thousands of tower base stations. The way the majority of us receive internet connectivity requires structures built on the ground, that can easily get damaged during tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. Starlink's connectivity from space would offer constant communication on Earth even when disaster strikes, which would be beneficial for first responders who help during emergencies and government officials.