Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX aims to fund missions to the moon and Mars 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. Starlink satellites are designed and manufactured by SpaceX at a facility in Redmond, Washington. During the Satellite 2020 Conference that took place on March 9, the Vice President of Starlink and Sales, Jonathan Hofeller, shared SpaceX is capable of manufacturing 6 satellites per day. Each satellite is a flat-panel about the size of an office desk, weighs around 260 kilograms, and features a single solar array, that is approximately 3 meters wide and 12 meters long. Starlink will be a constellation consisting of 12,000 satellites. The initial plan, consists of deploying 1,584 satellites into 72 orbits. Each orbit will have 22 satellites, at an operational altitude of 550 kilometers. So far, SpaceX has deployed a total of 362 satellites into low Earth orbit. According to SpaceX officials, it will take about 400 satellites to establish minor internet coverage and 800 satellites for moderate coverage. The latest batch of 60 satellites was deployed to orbit on March 18. Now, SpaceX is preparing to launch another cluster of 60 satellites on Thursday, April 16. The mission is scheduled to initiate at 5:31 p.m. EDT. All satellites ride atop a Falcon 9 rocket, that will liftoff from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. If the mission is successful, SpaceX will have a total of 420 internet-beaming satellites in low Earth orbit.
Next Starlink mission is scheduled for Thursday, April 16. at 5:31 p.m. EDT. A Falcon 9 rocket, will liftoff from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Source: SpaceX Starlink
SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, revealed some details of how customers will receive Starlink internet connection. He shared the user terminal, "looks like a thin, flat, round UFO on a stick." It is 0.48 meters in diameter, equivalent to about 19 inches across. Setting up the Starlink network will be relatively easy, "No training required." Musk explained:
"Starlink Terminal has motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky. Instructions are simply: plug in socket, point at sky."
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has authorized SpaceX to operate as many as 1 million Starlink terminals for customers to receive internet connectivity. The FCC authorization states the required date of "completion, construction, and commencement of operation is Saturday, March 13, 2021." SpaceX has an ambitious deadline to meet in order to begin offering internet services. The company expects to roll-out internet service in parts of Northern United States and Canada this year, then expand into a global network by 2021. Starlink's network will be beneficial to rural areas where internet connection is too expensive, unreliable or non-existent.
The United States military is actively testing the Starlink network. Read more: U.S. Air Force will assess SpaceX's Starlink during a series of live-fire exercises.