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posted by Fnord666 on Thursday October 24 2019, @11:51AM   Printer-friendly
from the skynet-is-here dept.

SpaceX's Starlink division is on track to offer satellite-broadband service in the United States in mid-2020, a company official said today. Meanwhile, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk posted two tweets that show he's testing the broadband service.

"Sending this tweet through space via Starlink satellite," Musk wrote. Two minutes later, Musk sent a followup tweet that said, "Whoa, it worked!!"
SpaceX launched 60 satellites in May this year to test the system before preparing for a wider deployment. The company has FCC permission to deploy up to 11,943 satellites and is seeking permission to launch as many as 30,000 more.
"We need 24 launches to get global coverage," Shotwell said. "Every launch after that gives you more capacity." SpaceX previously said it could make 24 Starlink launches in 2020.
While SpaceX has said it intends to provide gigabit speeds and latency as low as 25ms, a big unanswered question is how much it will cost. SpaceX is apparently still trying to figure that out.

"Shotwell said millions of people in the US pay $80 per month to get 'crappy service,'" SpaceNews reported. "She didn't say whether Starlink will cost more or less than $80 per month but suggested that would be a segment of the public the company would target as well as rural areas that currently have no connectivity."
There are some other interesting tidbits in the SpaceNews article. SpaceX wants to offer Starlink both to home Internet users and the US government, and the company is already testing with the US Air Force Research Laboratory. "So far, SpaceX has demonstrated data throughput of 610Mbps per second in flight to the cockpit of a US military C-12 twin-engine turboprop aircraft," the SpaceNews article said.

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SpaceX's Starship Can Launch 400 Starlink Satellites at Once 21 comments

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell has revealed that Starship can carry 400 Starlinks satellites into orbit, up from the 60 recently launched using a Falcon 9 rocket. The cost per launch may be negligible:

Beyond Shotwell's clear confidence that Starlink's satellite technology is far beyond OneWeb and years ahead of Amazon's Project Kuiper clone, she also touched on yet another strength: SpaceX's very own vertically-integrated launch systems. OneWeb plans to launch the vast majority of its Phase 1 constellation on Arianespace's commercial Soyuz rockets, with the launch contract alone expected to cost more than $1B for ~700 satellites.

SpaceX, on the other hand, owns, builds, and operates its own rocket factory and high-performance orbital launch vehicles and is the only company on Earth to have successfully fielded reusable rockets. In short, although Starlink's voracious need for launch capacity will undoubtedly require some major direct investments, a large portion of SpaceX's Starlink launch costs can be perceived as little more than the cost of propellant, work-hours, and recovery fleet operations. Boosters (and hopefully fairings) can be reused ad nauseum and so long as SpaceX sticks to its promise to put customer missions first, the practical opportunity cost of each Starlink launch should be close to zero.

[...] Shotwell revealed that a single Starship-Super Heavy launch should be able to place at least 400 Starlink satellites in orbit – a combined payload mass of ~120 metric tons (265,000 lb). Even if the cost of a Starship launch remained identical to Starlink v0.9's flight-proven Falcon 9, packing almost seven times as many Starlink satellites would singlehandedly cut the relative cost of launch per satellite by more than the 5X figure Musk noted.

In light of this new figure of 400 satellites per individual Starship launch, it's far easier to understand why SpaceX took the otherwise ludicrous step of reserving space for tens of thousands more Starlink satellites. Even if SpaceX arrives at a worst-case-scenario and is only able to launch Starship-Super Heavy once every 4-8 weeks for the first several years, that could translate to 2400-4800 Starlink satellites placed in orbit every year. Given that 120 tons to LEO is well within Starship's theoretical capabilities without orbital refueling, it's entirely possible that Starship could surpass Falcon 9's Starlink mass-to-orbit almost immediately after it completes its first orbital launch and recovery: a single Starship launch would be equivalent to almost 7 Falcon 9 missions.

The Starlink constellation can begin commercial operations with just 360-400 satellites, or 1,200 for global coverage. SpaceX has demonstrated a 610 Mbps connection to an in-flight U.S. military C-12 aircraft. SpaceX is planning to launch 60 additional Starlink satellites in November, marking the first reuse of a thrice-flown Falcon 9 booster.

Also at CNBC.

Previously: Third Time's the Charm! SpaceX Launch Good; Starlink Satellite Deployment Coming Up [Updated]
SpaceX Provides Update on Starship with Assembled Prototype as the Backdrop
SpaceX Requests Permission to Launch an Additional 30,000 Starlink Satellites, to a Total of 42,000+
Elon Musk Sends Tweet Via SpaceX's Starlink Satellite Broadband
SpaceX: Land Starship on Moon Before 2022, Then Do Cargo Runs for 2024 Human Landing

Original Submission

SpaceX to Become World's Largest Satellite Operator; Launch, Booster Landing Successful [UPDATED] 18 comments

[UPDATE (20200107_023514 UTC): Launch went off smoothly and on time. Booster landed safely on the drone ship. Second stage is in proper orbit and currently in coast phase leading up to satellite deployment.]

With Monday night launch, SpaceX to become world's largest satellite operator:

In 2019 SpaceX launched two batches of 60 Starlink satellites—one experimental, and the second operational. On Monday, the company plans to add 60 more satellites with a nighttime launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

If all goes to plan, this mission will be just the first of as many as 20 Starlink launches this year as SpaceX builds up a constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide global Internet service. SpaceX may begin to offer "bumpy" service by the middle of this year to some consumers.

Following this next launch, scheduled for 9:19pm ET Monday (02:19 UTC Tuesday), SpaceX will have a constellation of nearly 180 satellites in low-Earth orbit, each weighing a little more than 220kg. This will make the company simultaneously the world's largest private satellite operator (eclipsing Planet Labs), while also being the most active private launch company.

[...] Monday night's launch attempt will occur on a Falcon 9 first stage that has flown three times previously, in September 2018 (Telstar 18 VANTAGE), January 2019 (Iridium-8), and May 2019 (the first experimental Starlink mission). After launching, the first stage will land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. Another vessel, "Ms. Tree," will attempt to recover a payload fairing half. The Starlink satellites themselves will deploy at 61 minutes into the mission, at an altitude of 290km.

A webcast of the mission should begin about 15 minutes prior to launch.

Link to the YouTube webcast.


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @12:39PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @12:39PM (#911185)

    I wannit, I wannit, I wannit ... gimme gimme gimme!

    Seriously, there are millions of people living or wanting to live in places that have no internet access or only shit internet that costs more for less. There are places that have NO connections at all and you require traveling to another city to get a connection, even just to make a regular phone call.

    For example, in Canada, there are places which have no reliable Internet connection and no cell phone coverage, at all. People have died because of this lack of connectivity yet it's always too expensive to do anything about it. SpaceX immediately provides a solution here.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Thursday October 24 2019, @12:50PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Thursday October 24 2019, @12:50PM (#911189) Journal

      That's a good point. One way or another you should be able to get it within the next few years. If not from Starlink, then maybe OneWeb or Amazon/Blue Origin.

      I didn't sub this one because they said they were already testing Starlink by playing some online game, back when they launched Tintin A and B. Yup, here it is: []

      Indeed, SpaceX engineers have used the connectivity provided by the spacecraft — dubbed Tintin A and B — watch high-resolution videos and play online video games, which all seems surprisingly chill for the fast-paced workplace. Based on these early successes, the company goal told Reuters [] it is “pretty much on target” to begin providing service by 2020 with initial launches beginning in mid-2019.

      “[Tintin A and B are] happy and healthy and we’re talking with them every time they pass a ground station, dozens of times a day,” an unnamed SpaceX employee told the publication. “We were streaming 4k YouTube and playing ‘Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’ from Hawthorne to Redmond in the first week.”

      The cool part is that they may test Starships by repeatedly launching Starlink. Which means much cheaper launch costs than burning up Falcon 9 upper stages, and it would build confidence in Starship. Satellite (flatsat) costs may be an issue, but they say they only need a fraction of the planned constellation to begin offering service. If the cost ends up at $100,000 per satellite, that's $5 billion for 50,000, which is not terrible if they are generating revenue.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
    • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @01:16PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @01:16PM (#911194)

      Gimme a Starlink signal so I can figure out how to hack it from my bedroom for free unlimited internet forever.

      "You want me to hack from BabCom into Stellarcom and back, from my quarters?"

      Damn right.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday October 24 2019, @02:54PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 24 2019, @02:54PM (#911213) Journal

        Maybe for just one night, you could give up the net and watch Rebo and Zooty instead?

        With modern TVs you don't have to worry about braking the yolk on the back of the picture tube.
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @01:13PM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @01:13PM (#911192)

    Is there anything published on how they are routing packets?
    (L2, L3, predetermined from the ground or autonomous in orbit, etc)

    The paths they have so far could be Ground, Sat, Ground (GSG) or Ground, Sat, ..., Sat, Ground (GSSSSG)
    Eventually, the will have more orbits up, so it it will take notation to also show hops from one to another.

    Is there an IP address you can do traceroute to?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @01:25PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @01:25PM (#911197)

      You don't need to contact a looking glass server, see, because TFS told you gigabit speed with 25ms latency. The only question you should be asking is how much to pay for the privilege of using Musk satellite internet. Open your wallet.

      • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Thursday October 24 2019, @04:36PM

        by opinionated_science (4031) on Thursday October 24 2019, @04:36PM (#911259)

        My ATT gigabit doesn't get that.

        Musk should be making a lot of entrenched $CORPS very nervous.

        Just think of the many captive consumer options we are exposed to, and then some guy says "its 60 miles about wherever you are".


    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday October 24 2019, @01:31PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Thursday October 24 2019, @01:31PM (#911198) Journal

      The initial ~62 satellites they launched did not have satellite-to-satellite communications capability, and we don't know if the next batch of 60 will have it.

      The rest of the details should become more clear when they are actually offering service. I wouldn't worry about it until pricing is announced and service begins. Then you can read reviews of the service and get answers about the nuts and bolts.

      My guess is that they don't want even their subsidiary/secondary company (SpaceX Services, Inc.) to handle the responsibilities and customer service of a real ISP, so aside from big customers like high frequency traders and the U.S. Air Force, users will be handled by middlemen/resellers/MVNOs instead. But that is just a guess.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @01:32PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @01:32PM (#911199)

      Is there anything published on how they are routing packets?

      Yes. []


      There will be no intermediate G between satellite connection. It actually doesn't make any sense. Furthermore, you will be switching between satellites on an ongoing bases. We are talking maybe 1 minute per satellite here. The connections will obviosuly use phased array antennas.. Connection between satellites will use lasers. []

      Sadly, this will take a few years.

      PS. Currently they are just testing things which of course would only have a few satellites and missing its main features. R&D like this is not fast

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @04:03PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24 2019, @04:03PM (#911247)

        Thanks, the Hackaday link is pretty clear. They have no bird to bird comms yet, so the routing is more like GSGGGGSGGGSG.

        That could provide some internet access to regions limited by the availability of ground stations.
        It seems unlikely to provide much in the low latency arena.

        I wonder if these reduced capability sats qualify towards the minimum on orbit number needed for the FCC?

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday October 24 2019, @06:16PM

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Thursday October 24 2019, @06:16PM (#911307) Journal

          I wonder if these reduced capability sats qualify towards the minimum on orbit number needed for the FCC?

          Even if they didn't, I don't think it's a problem.

          They will transition to Starship for launches, likely fitting hundreds in very comfortably, with each launch being much cheaper than a Falcon 9 launch. They could launch using the same fully reusable Starship as fast as they can build the satellites.


          By April 2019, SpaceX was transitioning their satellite efforts from R&D to manufacturing, with the planned first launch of a large batch of satellites to orbit, and the clear need to achieve an average launch rate of "44 high-performance, low-cost spacecraft built and launched every month for the next 60 months" to get the 2,200 satellites launched to support their FCC spectrum allocation license assignment. SpaceX said they will meet the deadline of having half the constellation "in orbit within six years of authorization ... and the full system in nine years."

          The minimum amount they need seems really low. 2,200 sats could be less than 10 Starship flights, or 37 Falcon 9s (a bad scenario that requires lots of upper stages to be built, but doable). I guess it has gotten complicated because they have changed their plans multiple times.

          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []