SpaceX successfully launches Falcon 9 carrying internet satellites

SpaceX successfully launched another Falcon 9 rocket today carrying Spain's radar imaging Paz satellite as well as two of its own satellites, Microsat-2a and -2b. The two experimental satellites will be used to test SpaceX's plan to deliver internet…
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Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 Just Launched the First of 11,925 SpaceX Internet Satellites

SpaceX Internet Satellites

Today’s Falcon 9 reusable rocket launch may not be quite as headline-making as the Falcon Heavy’s epic sendoff a few weeks earlier, but it was nothing to sneeze at either. After all, Elon Musk does not simply launch a rocket. No, the SpaceX CEO prefers to break records. Or better yet, set them.

While the primary mission of Thursday’s launch was to carry Spain’s newest Earth-observation satellite, known as Paz, the rocket’s payload also included SpaceX’s first two internet satellites. It’s this pair of spacecraft that could kick off a new phase for the company — and for the global internet as we know it.

Musk has been working on somewhat secretive plans to launch internet satellites into orbit for a couple of years now. Back in 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the launches of 4,425 SpaceX internet satellites. The company then jacked that number up to almost 12,000 – six times the number of active satellites currently orbiting Earth.

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According to data from the Union of Concerned Scientists Satelite Database, there are 1,738 active satellites in orbit right now. Even if you add the 2,600-some inactive satellites, that would still make SpaceX’s presence three times that of all other spacecraft in orbit.

At first glance, it may not seem as impressive as launching a Tesla Roadster into space, but these satellites are pretty hefty: they’re roughly car-sized — about 390 kg (850 pounds) — and will eventually fill out SpaceX’s proposed constellation of satellites that would beam high-speed internet back down to Earth.

To that end, hitching a ride with Paz are two small telecommunication satellite prototypes: Microsat-2a and Microsat-2br. They’ll be the first of what SpaceX ultimately hopes will become two large groups of internet-beaming satellites, each operating on a different radio frequency.

Starting Starlink

Of the 12 grand, 4,425 SpaceX internet satellites will be positioned about 1,1oo km (700 miles) above Earth and the other 7,518 will orbit just 300 km (200 miles) above. The sheer number of the satellites, their varying positions in orbit, and their beaming-ability pose a formidable challenge for SpaceX.

The company will need to ensure the satellites can coordinate with receivers on Earth, for one. Then there’s the more fundamental question of how they’ll manage to keep track of so many objects in orbit and prevent them from colliding.

But if he can actually assemble this fleet of satellites, Musk says the network (informally known as Starlink, according to the Wall Street Journal) could provide internet to virtually any location on Earth. Such a network would lift the burden of developing internet infrastructure off of the developing world — in which less than half the population has ready access to the internet.

When Musk initially requested permission from the FCC to start this project in 2015, he said at SpaceX Seattle that the goal for the network would be to handle more than half of long-distance internet traffic. This would allow faster and more direct communication between different continents than is currently possible, Musk said.

That said, the impact on local internet communications would be less dramatic. Starlink would probably handle only 10 percent business-to-consumer direct — leaving the other 90 percent of local access to fiber. But that reality could only be for the short term.

“We’re really talking about something which is, in the long term, like rebuilding the internet in space,” Musk said at SpaceX Seattle. And after today’s successful launch, it seems like SpaceX is one step closer to doing just that.

The post Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 Just Launched the First of 11,925 SpaceX Internet Satellites appeared first on Futurism.

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SpaceX wins backing to build broadband network using satellites

Test launch approved for Saturday onboard Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX, the company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk, has received backing from the US communications regulator to build a broadband network using satellites.

SpaceX made an application to provide the broadband services in the US and worldwide. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Ajit Pai, said the network would solve one of the biggest headaches in technology today: poor internet connectivity in rural areas.

“Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places, where fibre-optic cables and cell towers do not reach,” Pai said in a statement to Reuters.

To boldly go where no WAN has gone before

In a letter sent to the FCC earlier this month, SpaceX confirmed plans to launch a pair of experimental satellites on one of its Falcon 9 rockets. The launch has been approved by the FCC, and is set for Saturday.

The rocket will carry the PAZ satellite for Hisdesat, a satellite communications services provider to government agencies, based in Madrid, Spain. It will also carry multiple secondary payloads.

Pai wants SpaceX to get approval for the scheme, and for it to become the first US-based organisation to provide broadband services using low-Earth-orbit satellites.

Others have backed the move. FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel claimed that a satellite internet service would “create extraordinary new opportunities”. She urged the FCC to move quickly to approve the scheme.

In space, no one can hear you stream

Musk has previously stated that SpaceX wants to launch a satellite internet business to help fund a future city on Mars. He suggested that the move would be about “rebuilding the internet in space”, making a global communications system that would be faster than existing connections.

However, while SpaceX may be the only company to blast a roadster into space, it isn’t the only one aiming to deploy satellites for broadband services. The FCC has also approved bids by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat, and is still processing requests from other businesses.

In January, Telesat launched a satellite operated by the (state) Indian Space Research Organization. Its aim is to deliver “high-performing, cost-effective, fibre-like broadband anywhere in the world”, with tests to be conducted later this year.

Internet of Business says

These technologies could be a game changer for the broadband market, which has long been hampered by a lack of progress in boosting connectivity in rural areas. In the US, it is estimated that at least 14 million people lack mobile broadband.

In the UK – where BT’s belief that 10Mbps is “superfast” has probably done more to set back the digital economy than any other factor – the government is investigating which technologies could provide internet access to rural communities, without being cost-prohibitive.

However, many communities have been frustrated by the British government’s lack of progress, with some launching a range of independent projects that have a more earthbound perspective than Mr Musk’s.

B4RN – a fibre-optic broadband network registered as a non-profit, community-benefit society – is one such project. It is run by a dedicated local team with the support of landowners and volunteers. It offers a 1,000Mbps FTTH (fibre to the home) connection to every property in its coverage area, costing households just £30 per month.


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The post SpaceX wins backing to build broadband network using satellites appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

SpaceX is launching its broadband satellites into orbit this weekend


Following the success of its Falcon Heavy launch, SpaceX is gearing up for its next mission: sending satellites into orbit so they can beam down internet access to earth. The company isn’t making a lot of noise about it just now, but from this letter it sent to the Federal Communications Commission last week, and a license that the agency granted the Elon Musk-fronted firm last November, it’s clear that the Falcon 9 rocket that will take off on Saturday will carry two Starlink satellites alongside Mexico’s Paz mission payload. Back in May 2017, SpaceX appeared before the US Senate…

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