Starlink Update: Terminal Pre-Sales

According to an LA Times roundtable discussion with Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX CEO, there will be terminal pre-sale.

When SpaceX’s broadband service starts mid-2020, the initial experience will be “bumpy,” company President Gwynne Shotwell said Friday.

However, she said she expects SpaceX to mature as an internet service provider by 2021.

The company will take pre-sales for customer service, similar to what fellow Elon Musk-led company Tesla Inc. has done for new vehicles, Shotwell said during a media roundtable at the company’s Hawthorne headquarters. And early customers will be part of that learning curve.

“We’re not going to fib and say it’s going to be the best thing ever,” she said. “When you get service, it’s going to be great. But it’ll be bumpy for a while.”
SpaceX has already launched two rounds of 60 satellites each. The company expects it will need 24 launches, with about 1,440 satellites, to have enough to provide full global coverage. SpaceX has not yet determined customer pricing.

Shotwell said subsequent launches will see satellites with experimental coatings to reduce their brightness in the sky, which has been a concern for astronomers who fear the satellites could affect telescope images. The satellites are in low-Earth orbit and there could be a lot of them — SpaceX has asked an international regulatory group for permission to eventually operate as many as 30,000 satellites.

Continue reading HERE.

I am saving my quarters for a pre-purchase of a Starlink terminal. Yea, I use to save my pennies, but I live in California, which distorts reality.

LEO Launch Schedules

SpaceX is launching 12,000 satellites, which can provide low latency “fiber-like broadband” to rural users around the globe. Initial Starlink service is projected to start in the Northern US by mid-summer, with full US coverage by the end of 2020. SpaceX has launched 120 Starlink satellites, with 60 more planned in December. SpaceX is planning two launches per month in 2020, adding capacity and customers with each new launch. By January 2021, the Starlink constellation will have 1610 satellites in orbit, providing high-speed broadband services to customers.

OneWeb, SpaceX’s nearest competitor, has launched six satellites, with more planned in 2020, starting in February, then again in October and November. Each launch will insert 32 more satellites in orbit. OneWeb is not expected to begin service until they have 350 satellites on orbit.

Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 2.03.00 PM
Red dates indicate satellites launched, blue scheduled launches.

Where were the Real Innovators?

Satellite Innovation Symposium has become the most important West Coast event for satellite professionals who follow the evolving technologies and market opportunities related to satellites and space.

Here is what the conference attendees were saying about the LEO companies, according to Wendy Lewis writing in SatMagazine:

How the proposed constellations of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites will impact the industry remains a key question.

There were multiple discussions about the potential for OneWeb, Project Kuiper, Starlink, Telesat LEO, LeoSat and others to succeed and speculation on which might merge with others and which might be left on the drawing board.

Continue reading HERE.

I would like to have overheard some of those conversations and discussions.  If the LEO operates as planned they are going to be taking customers from these MEO and GEO satellite communications innovators. LEOs have a latency advantage they can exploit, with no way for the MEO and GEO systems to match.

The LEO broadband companies are the leading edge innovators, yet they did not exhibit or present at the Symposium “the most important West Coast event for satellite professionals.” Why?  SpaceX is going to launch more satellites than all MEO and GEO sats ever launched. Is SpaceX too busy Innovating to go to conferences where they spend hours talking about innovation?

The Sponsors & Exhibitors are HERE.  Any insight from readers? 

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 fourth 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 and only had Ku band antennas.  The second batch of 60 is fully operational birds, ready to provide broadband internet with both Ku- and Ka-band antennas.  

“Since the most recent launch of Starlink satellites in May, SpaceX has increased spectrum capacity for the end-user through upgrades in design that maximize the use of both Ka- and Ku-bands.”



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.

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.