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posted by chromas on Thursday November 01 2018, @10:59PM   Printer-friendly

Elon Musk went on firing spree over slow satellite broadband progress

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently "fired at least seven" managers in order to speed up development and testing of satellites that could provide broadband around the world, Reuters reported today.

SpaceX denied parts of the story, saying that some of those managers left of their own accord and that the firings happened over a longer period of time than Reuters claimed.

[...] Among the fired employees were SpaceX VP of Satellites Rajeev Badyal and top designer Mark Krebs, Reuters wrote. "Rajeev wanted three more iterations of test satellites," Reuters quoted one of its sources as saying. "Elon thinks we can do the job with cheaper and simpler satellites, sooner."

Reuters described a culture clash between Musk and employees hired from Microsoft, "where workers were more accustomed to longer development schedules than Musk's famously short deadlines." Badyal is a former Microsoft employee, while Krebs previously worked for Google."

Apparently, the test satellites work:

"We're using the Tintins to explore that modification," one of the SpaceX employee sources said. "They're happy and healthy and we're talking with them every time they pass a ground station, dozens of times a day."

SpaceX engineers have used the two test satellites to play online video games at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California and the Redmond office, the source said. "We were streaming 4k YouTube and playing 'Counter-Strike: Global Offensive' from Hawthorne to Redmond in the first week," the person added.

Also at SpaceNews and TechCrunch.

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by takyon on Friday November 02 2018, @05:37AM (2 children)

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Friday November 02 2018, @05:37AM (#756760) Journal

    They plan on flying the satellites in two groups: one at 340 km (210 miles) altitude, and another at 1,200 km (750 miles). []

    Internet traffic via a geostationary satellite has a minimum theoretical round-trip latency of at least 477 ms (between user and ground gateway), but in practice, current satellites offer latencies of 600 ms or more. Starlink satellites would orbit at 1/30 to 1/105 of geostationary orbits, and thus offer more practical latencies of around 7 to 30 ms, comparable to or exceeding existing cable or fiber networks.

    The system will use a peer-to-peer protocol claimed to be "simpler than IPv6", though no details have been as yet released.

    [...] In addition to the OneWeb constellation, announced nearly concurrently with the SpaceX constellation, a 2015 proposal from Samsung has outlined a 4600-satellite constellation orbiting at 1,400 kilometers (900 mi) that could provide a zettabyte per month capacity worldwide, an equivalent of 200 gigabytes per month, or 77 kilobytes per second, for 5 billion users of Internet data. Telesat announced a smaller 117 satellite constellation and plans to deliver initial service in 2021.

    By October 2017, the expectation for large increases in satellite network capacity from emerging lower-altitude broadband constellations caused market players to cancel investments in new geosynchronous orbit broadband commsats.

    I am willing to give it a shot, especially since I don't do much gaming at all. If total latency ends up being substantially worse than cable/fiber, I'm sure we'll hear many people complain about it.

    A bigger issue for them might be keeping the satellites in orbit. At 210 miles, those sats will probably not be long-lived. In the long-term, maybe they will try to use the air-breathing electric thruster trick [].

    This service would also be one of the few ways for most people to give money to SpaceX, seeing as the company does not plan to go public until it is regularly transporting people to Mars. Otherwise, I can only think of the merch on their shop [].

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  • (Score: 2) by Arik on Friday November 02 2018, @04:36PM (1 child)

    by Arik (4543) on Friday November 02 2018, @04:36PM (#756906) Journal
    Getting them to stick around at 210 miles is likely to be very tricky. And even if that works, it wouldn't be great for latency, just not quite as bad. The figures quoted seem quite optimistic.
    If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02 2018, @07:54PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02 2018, @07:54PM (#757038)

      I imagine they won't plan for these satellites to last more than 5 years. SpaceX can put them up relatively cheaply anyway, so replacing every so often shouldn't be a big deal.

      And the ISS orbits at between 200-240 miles. I'm sure a company that can land rockets on a barge at sea can work out how to keep their satellites in a similar orbit.