Internet everywhere: SpaceX launch satellites for wi-fi

Federico Mansilla
Febrero 19, 2018

SpaceX plans to connect its constellation of satellites to form a so-called mesh network, passing information among them and blanketing the earth.

It will begin with two test satellites that will be launched this Sunday (February 18th).

Google and Facebook have also been experimenting with alternative internet delivery options, including satellites, drones and balloons. They are Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, and will shed light on the beginning of the massive network that Elon Musk's company hopes to be around 12,000 individual low-orbiting satellites. If this works, Musk plans to use the same design for a Martian internet.

The rocket will basically carry the PAZ satellite as well as other smaller sophisticated technological stuff.

"SpaceX anticipates that an initial deployment of as few as 800 satellites will be capable of providing high-speed, low-latency broadband throughout the US and anywhere on the planet", SpaceX said in one filing with the FCC.

Test stations will be located in Hawthorne; Fremont; McGregor and Brownsville, Texas; and in Redmond, Wash., where SpaceX has established an office dedicated to satellite development.

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And now Elon Musk has just become the coolest guy in the solar system by launching a vehicle into space. But, even today, its latest offering, HughesNet Gen5, tops out at only 25Mbps. The cheaper it is to launch an internet satellite, the more you can launch. More than half of the world's population still doesn't have an Internet connection, according to a 2017 United Nations report. This makes things like gaming, video chat, and more effectively unusable. The program was estimated to provide almost 50 million people with internet.

SpaceX's VP of satellite government affairs, Patricia Cooper, promises that StarLink will only have latencies as low as 25ms.

Read also: Superfast broadband: How fast is fast enough? In other words, it's likely not a coincidence that the first flight test of a Starlink satellite will actually feature two satellites - one can not test laser interlinks with just one satellite. It was a very tall rocket with a huge capacity for space travel.

OneWeb already has approval from the FCC for its internet plans. And last week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai gave SpaceX's internet ambitions a nudge by urging the FCC to approve SpaceX's broader internet proposal. Space Norway won approval for two satellites.

On the mission front, meanwhile, teams at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are targeting no earlier than 12:35 a.m. February 25 for the launch of Hispasat 30W-6, a commercial communications satellite, for Spain-based Hispasat. Besides the experimental Starlink satellites, its main cargo will be the Spanish Paz satellite.

PAZ, with Europe's Airbus as its prime contractor, carries a radar-imaging payload to collect views of Earth for government and commercial customers, along with ship tracking and weather sensors.

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