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SpaceX aims to fund its space program by offering internet service. The rocket company is in the process of building a satellite constellation that will beam high-speed broadband internet across the globe. The company states, Starlink will be beneficial to rural areas where internet is unreliable or nonexistent. 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 -includes 2 experimental satellites. The latest batch of 60 satellites was deployed to orbit on March 18. SpaceX is now preparing to deploy another cluster of 60 satellites on Thursday, April 23 at 3:16 p.m. EDT. A Falcon 9 rocket is set to liftoff at 3:16 p.m. EDT. from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Engineers already completed a static-fire test of the thrice-flown rocket that will launch the satellite into low Earth orbit.
Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete—targeting Thursday, April 23 at 3:16 p.m. EDT, 19:16 UTC, for launch of 60 Starlink satellites from LC-39A in Florida— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 17, 2020
According to SpaceX officials, it will take about 400 satellites to establish minor internet coverage and 800 satellites for moderate coverage. To receive internet connection, customers will need terminal units. The Federal Communications Commission gave SpaceX permission to operate 1 million user terminals to offer service in parts of the United States before the end of this year.
SpaceX filed documents with St. Johns River Water Management District to build a Starlink ground station at Cape Canaveral’s Air Force Station, on a piece of land situated in Banana River. Which is located west from Launch Complex 37. Local news station, Florida Today, reports the documents reveal -“A 50-foot-by-50-foot patch of land that will host at least one satellite dish capable of communicating with the Starlink constellation.”
“A 50-foot-by-50-foot patch of land that will host at least one satellite dish capable of communicating with the Starlink constellation.”
The ground station could be used to receive and send high amounts of data during signal tests, and be utilized for communication during future SpaceX missions.
The company aims to begin offering broadband service in some parts of the Unites States by the end of this year, after 12 Starlink missions. The President of SpaceX Gwynne Shotwell said, global internet coverage will come after 24 launches, "Once we get to 1,200 satellites, we will have coverage of the whole globe." They have not announced pricing for the service yet. In December 2019 reporters asked her about Starlink's price, Shotwell stated:
"All I know is you will be far happier with the value of the Starlink service than you are with your current service. You will, for sure, get way more bandwidth for the same price, or way more bandwidth for less…You’ll be far happier with this. The value will be far greater.”
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.