It’s yet another vision to completely remake an industry.
Elon Musk wants you to cut the cord to cable. He’s trying to raise $500 million for his SpaceX rocket company to blanket low-orbit space with up to 12,000 satellites to provide high-speed internet service — and he wants the first set of them in orbit by the middle of the year.
That might seem like an ambitious deadline, but anyone who’s watched Musk push SpaceX, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), or even his Boring Company forward knows he likes to go big. Making cheap internet available to everyone around the globe, and having half the world’s traffic go through his constellation of Starlink satellites? For the man who is arguably one of today’s most visionary leaders, it’s just another day ending in “y.”
Early last year, SpaceX launched two prototype satellites into orbit, named Tintin A and Tintin B, and installed a series of ground stations around the country to communicate with them. SpaceX plans to launch 1,600 satellites over the next few years — the system will become operational when 800 satellites are in orbit — and to launch the full spectrum of 12,000 satellites by 2025.
Once in orbit, Starlink will receive signals from ground stations via radio waves. It will then transmit the signals between satellites with lasers; when a signal reaches the satellite over its destination, it will be beamed down with radio waves again. The process will speed communications to a rate that’s about twice what is possible with optical fiber.
The promise of the system is that it will provide direct-to-consumer wireless connections, instead of having signals rerouted through multiple waypoints as with cable and existing satellite TV, which results in relatively expensive service. SpaceX looks to dramatically reduce the cost of internet service for everyone.
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If SpaceX starts launching in mid-summer, how long will it take to get 800 birds in space? I am thinking it will be 2020 before we see Internet streaming from space. As for the low-cost projections, I will believe it when my first Starlink bill comes and it is less than expected.