Providing an Internet that would cater to the entire population is undeniably a very ambitious goal. It’s not a simple feat to conquer and it certainly wouldn’t be easy. However, we’re not the ones to tell Elon Musk otherwise.
The renowned tech genius, Elon Musk, who’s famous for breaking technological limitations starting with electric and autonomously driving vehicles, and who has also ventured into space exploration and human access is starting to introduce the idea of global Internet service. How is he planning to do just that? From space, of course.
If you’re not aware, Musk founded a company called Space X whose main purpose was to explore the possibilities of making space exploration more accessible and a probable commercial venture by discovering ways of making travel back and forth the Earth’s atmosphere cheaper and a lot safer. As part of that mission, Space X has been traveling back and forth delivering goods for NASA to the ISS. Recently, it accomplished its first test flight intended for human travel at a success. All the while having the technology that allowed it to reuse engines for back and forth travel, a feat new to the entire idea of space travel.
With everything Space X has managed to conquer, Musk is certainly encouraged that his idea of providing Internet from space could be the most effective way to provide it globally.
Saturday, Musk wrote to Twitter with 2 photos indicating that Space X is getting ready to send its first 60 Internet-beaming satellites called Starlink satellites to space aboard one of its Falcon aircraft.
However, don’t get your hopes up just yet. The idea of Space X’s Starlink project is still very new and is frankly at the very beginning of its one of a kind technology.
Musk intends to launch a total of 11,940 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit between now and the mid-2020s as part of Space X’s demonstration of the technology. To put it into perspective, SpaceX will need “6 more launches of 60” satellites per launch to get “minor coverage” for the internet network, and a dozen launches, or 720 satellites, are needed “for moderate” coverage.”
The satellites will, in fact, work and will provide Internet access to all regions of the Earth where there is little to none. In February 2018, Space X first tested the technology by launching two Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit named TinTin A and TinTin B. According to Musk, both performed well even though they were launched much lower into orbit, lower than the ISS, than what was originally planned. As a result, Space X successfully petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to allow the company to launch more satellites for further testing.
The FCC granted SpaceX permission to launch two groups of satellites for the Starlink project: one constellation of 4,409 satellites, followed by a second constellation of 7,518 that will operate at a slightly lower altitude than the first.
However last week during a satellite conference, SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell noted that these satellites still lack some design features needed for the final constellation, according to a report in Space News. Basically, the goal of the first batch of Starlink satellites is to test its production design and its performance in actual orbit.
In a letter to the FCC, SpaceX said the satellites are now designed to be “completely demisable” when they return and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. SpaceX said this means there is “zero” risk any pieces of Starlink will hurt anyone on the ground after the satellites are done being used as CNB reports.
Musk even said in a Tweet that “much will likely go wrong” in the first mission.
From a more further perspective, Space X is only one of half a dozen other companies who are looking into the possibility of a satellite system in low Earth orbit to provide global Internet and the competition to being the first and best provider of which only continues to heat up. Space X is currently in the lead against companies like OneWeb, Telesat, LeoSat, and newcomer, Amazon who are also all working on developing their own satellite constellations. OneWeb, who also launched its first six satellites in February of this year currently follows Space X.