SpaceX aims to fund their space program by offering internet services. The company has been deploying small desk-sized Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. Starlink will be a constellation consisting of 12,000 satellites that will beam high-speed broadband internet across the globe. SpaceX officials previously stated that Starlink broadband internet will be affordable enough that areas where internet is non-existent, or unreliable will benefit from their service. Currently there are a total of 230 satellites in low Earth orbit, out of the 12,000 they aim to deploy. Scientists voiced their concerns about Starlink satellites appearing too bright in the night sky and how a constellation could interfere with their astronomical observations. Starlink is launched in batches of 60 satellites per mission, and are especially bright soon after launch, visible in trainlike formations when flying at lower altitudes, before reaching their final -higher- orbit, where they should become less visible from the ground to the naked eye (video below).
This month (January 6), they deployed one satellite with an experimental anti-reflectivity coating on the bottom, called DarkSat. “This next batch has one satellite that we’ve put a coating on the bottom. This is going to be an experiment … We’re going to do trial and error to figure out what’s the best way to get this done. But we are going to get it done,” Shotwell assured. First, engineers plan to test DarkSat's coating to see if its anti-reflectivity properties could cause thermal changes that could affect the satellites internet signal performance. It will take a few more weeks until the DarkSat raises into its final orbit where engineers could test it. "It takes a few weeks for those satellites to reach their final orbit destination, so we don’t have the results of that DarkSat experiment just yet, but we’ll be sure to share what we’ve learned as the data becomes available," a SpaceX Engineer, Lauren Lyons said. The Starlink constellation will be deployed into three orbital shells with operational altitudes of 340 kilometers (210 miles), 550 kilometers (340 miles) and 1,150 kilometers (710 miles). DarkSat's orbit is still low, at about 366 - 368 kilometers. DarkSat is expected to reach operational altitude by the end of February 2020. Once reaching the final orbit, engineers will test the satellite's performance, then determine if they will use the anti-reflective coating on all their satellites or test another method to reduce brightness.
WATCH SPACEX LAST STARLINK MISSION:
SpaceX plans as many as 24 Starlink's dedicated rocket launches with 60 satellites each this year. They target to offer Starlink's service in some parts of the Northern United States and Canada soon, and aim to roll-out global coverage by 2021.