SpaceX adds 60 satellites into orbit this weekend for the Starlink Space Internet project. With this launch, there are 895 satellites in total, exceeding the number needed to provide “moderate” coverage as promised by Elon Musk.
The latest launch has marked the 15th Starlink mission (and the 19th SpaceX mission so far this year). Musk’s company is leveraging its impressive capabilities, achieving a “commercial” scale that other rivals cannot compete with, by having its own technologies, rockets, and launchpad for deployment.
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Although the project initially envisaged a mega-constellation of up to 42,000 satellites, the authorities have granted permission to launch 12,000. A number that is considered sufficient to guarantee the broadband services that Musk intends to offer, although the initial launch will be carried out with a considerably lower number.
Starlink: the Space Internet takes shape
Elon Musk’s company aims to develop a global high-speed satellite broadband service to offer speeds of up to 1GB/s and latency of less than 20ms to regular users. More important than its performance (less than fiber networks or even 5G) will be its coverage, as it will be able to offer services all over the planet including rural or remote areas. This idea includes places where the internet is not available for technical or commercial reasons.
Starlink satellites are being placed in a 550 km orbit, considerably lower than initially planned. They are about the size of a shoebox and operate in a mesh network that operates in the 40GHz to 75GHz spectrum to communicate with each other while using Ka/Ku radio frequencies to send the signal to receivers on Earth.
At the moment the project is in a beta phase and is being tested by a limited number of users. The preliminary performance results known so far are quite discrete, although they are superior to typical satellite connections (especially in latencies). The margin of improvement is enormous and will surely gain speed as the number of satellites is completed.
Musk’s project is the most ambitious and the most advanced in the ‘Space Internet’ race. Broadband Internet services from space have become a new playing field for the telecommunications industry. Several companies have projects underway, Jeff Bezos’ company, Amazon, has the space division called Blue Origin, and there are other companies such as Kepler, Telesat Canada, OneWeb, LeoSat or Hispasat.
Starlink continues to add satellites for Space Internet project. Musk’s company expects ample benefits in the medium term, reaching an operating profit margin of 60%. Internal SpaceX documents show that in 2025 the company expects to earn up to 22 billion dollars a year, most of it from the sale of satellite Internet service.