Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, plans to fund their space program by offering internet services worldwide. They are developing a low latency, broadband internet system, named Starlink. The constellation will be composed of approximately 12,000 Starlink satellites, capable of beaming their signal at the speed of light to areas on Earth where internet is non-existent, too expensive, or unreliable. Starlink satellites are relatively small compared to others in orbit. The unit is about the size of an office desk, featuring a single solar array and flat panel antennas. Musk, said last year that Starlink would be "economically viable" at 1,000 satellites, that reaching 12,000 satellites would be a "very successful outcome" for Starlink. After 24 rocket launches of 60 satellites each, they expect to achieve global internet coverage. This year, they aim to complete all 24 launches.
So far, the company has deployed three batches of 60 satellites, the first in May, second in November 2019, and early this month on January 6 they launched the third batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit atop their Falcon 9 rocket. Now, they have a total of 180 Starlink satellites (plus two prototypes launched two years ago) orbiting Earth. Starlink became the world's largest broadband internet satellite constellation.
The fourth batch of 60 Starlink satellites will be deployed into low Earth orbit on Monday, January 26. a Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to lift-off at 9:49 a.m. EST from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX will use a previously flown Falcon 9 rocket for this Starlink mission. Read more: Falcon 9 B1051.3 booster will now be reused a third time.
SpaceX announced today:
"Weather is 50% favorable for tomorrow’s launch of 60 Starlink satellites at 9:49 a.m. EST, 14:49 UTC. Webcast will go live ~15 minutes before liftoff."
Weather is 50% favorable for tomorrow’s launch of 60 Starlink satellites at 9:49 a.m. EST, 14:49 UTC. Webcast will go live ~15 minutes before liftoff → https://t.co/gtC39uBC7z pic.twitter.com/6ajTQ2znOi— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 26, 2020
The United States Air Force's 45th Space Wing weather squadron issued a weather forecast for tomorrow's launch that predicts 50% favorable weather conditions, stating: "The main concerns during the launch window will be disturbed weather and thick clouds. Max upper-level winds will be westerly at 135 knots near 35,000 feet. The low pressure area will push through the Spaceport Monday and high pressure is expected to build across the area heading into Tuesday […] Lingering cumulus clouds are the main concern during the backup launch window. Maximum upper-level winds will be from the west at 85 knots near 39,000 feet."
WATCH THE MISSION LIVE TOMORROW MORNING! VIDEO:
Starlink satellites have been tested by the United States military. SpaceX officials stated that the internet speeds are faster than our current internet infrastructure. Every deployment of 60 satellites could deliver 1 terabit of bandwith, that could potentially support 40,000 users streaming ultra-high-definition content at the same time.
Musk, revealed some details of how customers will receive Starlink internet connection. He shared that the terminal "looks like a thin, flat, round UFO on a stick," meaning it is a circular shape antenna. He also added that setting up the Starlink network would be relatively easy. The "Starlink terminal has motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky," Musk explained. The device's technology is advanced enough to find the signal on its own, users will not have to figure out where the Starlink constellation might be nor adjust the terminal as it moves through the sky, it would automatically move itself. The user would just plug it into electricity and point it at the sky or vice-versa, with "No training required." SpaceX could roll-out service to the public in some parts of the Unites States by the middle of this year, "Starlink is targeting service in the Northern U.S. and Canada in 2020, rapidly expanding to near global coverage of the populated world by 2021."
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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.