SpaceX Just Launched 60 Starlink Satellites [Updated]

This morning I watched in realtime the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 with 60 Starlink Satellites under the shroud. An hour after launch the video showed the flock of 60 birds released as they floated away from the upper stage. has more details and videos HERE.

What a thrill to see the booster stage land on the remote recovery platform, completing its forth mission and ready to be refurbished for a fifth. This mission also reused a shroud recovered from a previous Falcon Heavy launch.  According to Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX CEO most Starlink launches will be with reused boosters and when possible the shrouds which are being recovered also.

Elon Musk’s disruption of the telecommunications industry is beginning to accelerate. We live in interesting times. Stay tuned.

Update 11-11-19: Inverse Has More Details

SpaceX Starlink takes a big step forward with the second groundbreaking launch HERE

Update 11-17-19: The first 60 Starlinks were not fully operational satellites, they were test birds.  This second batch of 60 is fully operational birds, ready to provide broadband internet.  




Some Thoughts on the Starlink User Terminal

Let’s start with what we know about the Starlink user terminal from news reports and then do some thinking about issues.

What we know from the news:

Described as being a similar shape to a family size pizza box, according to Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO

The terminal will be user-installed, arrived in a box with a power cord attached, Gwynne Shotwell, COO

The terminal will be placed in a window, on the roof or pole in the yard, Gwynne Shotwell

WiFi will most likely be the link from the terminal to user devices, computer, laptop, pad, or smartphone, Gwynne Shotwell.

Laser enabled satellites will not be available until the late 2020 launches, Gwynne Shotwell, COO

Bent pipe internet service to be available in mid-2020, Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO

Some assumptions:

A terminal will be a multi-user device with some limitations as to the number of users on the WiFi link

For maximum coverage, the terminal should have access to the open sky from horizon to horizon, as a single satellite is only visible for about 12 minutes before it needs to lock-on the next Starlink. In bend pipe mode, both user and ground station need to be tracking the same Starlink.

Bent pipe mode, with no laser handoff, will limit streaming connection time to about 10-12 minutes.

The service price will be about $80 per month, as Shotwell pointed out; this is what consumers are paying for crappy service now.

Some considerations:

Based on my experience as a non-profit ISP introducing the dial-up Internet to the community where none existed, shipping users terminal to end-users will work for some people, the techies. Early dialup users bought a modem, signed up for an account username and password, and then tried to get connected. The average consumer needed some help.

I think that the average Starlink consumer is going to need some help, especially in the early days when the network is not yet robust and has coverage limitations. Users will need to have some understanding of satellite dynamics and appreciate the horizon to the horizon line of site restrictions. They will need to understand the weakness of the system as well as the strengths. This information deficit opens the door for some entrepreneurs who might want to do some Starlink user terminal consulting.

LEO Economic Development Opportunities

by Russ Steele

The introduction of millions of satellite ground terminals into the consumer market open up some economic development opportunities. According to Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s President and Chief Operating Officer, the one million terminals will be shipped to the customer in a box, and they will do the installation. I do not have any information on how the 1.5 million OneWeb end-user terminals will arrive?

Based on my experience as a non-profit ISP introducing the dial-up Internet to the community where none existed, this will work for some people, the techies. Still, the average consumer is going to need some help. They will especially need some help in the early days when the network is not yet robust and has a limitation on coverage. Users will need to have some understanding of satellite dynamics and appreciate the line of site restrictions. They will need to understand the weakness of the system as well as the strengths.

As a non-profit, we put a significant volunteer effort into customer support, bring people up to speed on the Internet. This may be an opening for community colleges to offer courses for terminal customer service reps or hold on-campus classes on satellite Internet. The University of Arizona is offering online courses to train people to operate the network ground control terminals and associated satellite dynamics. So far, the end-user terminal training is not being provided. This opens some opportunities for entrepreneurs who might want to do some ground terminal user consulting.  

I am planning to be an early end-user and will report the results on this blog. Stay tuned.

OneWeb Needs Another Billion for Launches

UK Telegraph:

British satellite maker OneWeb is preparing to tap investors for another $1bn (£770m) as the cost of its plan to launch hundreds of advanced orbiters into space next year rockets.

City sources said OneWeb, which is backed by Japan’s SoftBank, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Airbus, is aiming to raise the sum as it prepares to launch 30 satellites per month from December in what will be the largest launch programme in history.

Around half the money is expected to be stumped up by SoftBank and spread over two years. The raise is expected to be a mix of fresh equity and debt, although the final amount and timeline could still change.

The discussions are underway just six months after a $1.25bn capital injection in March that valued OneWeb at $3.25bn.

The company’s chief financial officer, Tom Whayne, revealed last month that it was in “active discussions on a new round of equity financing from a combination of existing and new investors”.

A company spokesman declined to comment further.

OneWeb, is spending billions on launching a constellation of 650 small satellites to offer world-spanning internet connectivity.

Emphasis added.  Continue reading HERE.

See highlighted text.  I think that SpaceX with the launch of 60 satellites on a single Falcon 9 holds the largest launch claim. SpaceX is planning two launches per month in 2020 of 60 satellites per launch, which beats OneWeb’s 30 per month.

SpaceX Starlink Broadband Services in Mid-2020

Engineering Today has the details in this video

SpaceX’s Starlink division is on track to offer satellite-broadband service in the United States in mid-2020, the company’s president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said Oct. 22. Getting there will require the company to launch six to eight batches of satellites, said Shotwell.

The video reveals that Starlink is being tested by the US Air Force. it shows a possible terminal configuration, similar to that proposed by OneWeb which is he first shown in the video, then one which could be the Starlink terminal.

Rural Telcom De-regulation — Prompts Competition from Space

Doug Dawson has an excellent post in Pots and Pans on the impact regulators had on the lack of rural broadband.

Rural America should never have been deregulated. Shame on every regulator in every state that voted to deregulate the big telcos in rural America. Shame on every regulator that allowed companies like Verizon palm off their rural copper to companies like Frontier – a company that cannot succeed, almost by definition.

In rural America the telcos have a physical network monopoly and the regulators should have found ways to support rural copper rather than letting the telcos walk away from it. We know this can be done by looking at the different approaches taken by the smaller independent telephone companies. These small companies took care of their copper and most have now taken the next step to upgrade to fiber to be ready for the next century.

The full post is HERE.

Doug writes: “The big telcos started abandoning rural America as much as thirty years ago. They’ve stopped maintaining copper and have not voluntarily made any investments in rural America for a long time. There was a burst of rural construction recently when the FCC gave them $11 billion to improve rural broadband to 10/1 Mbps – but that doesn’t seem to be drawing many rural subscribers.”

The launch of the low earth-orbiting satellite broadband networks by SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon are going to provide rural users alternatives to the poor service and slow speeds offered by the telcos. The LEO ISPs are promising “fiber-like services” to rural customers starting in 2020, with full service by 2021.

One of the challenges will be the start-up costs, which are forecast to be in the $300 to 500 dollar range. The monthly fee of those services is presently an unknown but is expected to be competitive with existing fiber services.

SpaceX is expecting a high demand for their “fiber-like services” from space. They have requested permission to launch up to 42,000 Starlink satellites, 12,000 that are already approved plus 30,000 more to meet the expected global demand. This YouTube video has some details and attractive graphics: