SpaceX launches first Starlink internet satellites

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SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space company, is planning to launch 60 of its own satellites in a single launch expected May 15, the first of more than 4,000 spacecraft planned for the Starlink network. If successful, the flight will make SpaceX the frontrunner in a tight race to be the first operator of an internet satellite network, as SpaceX is the only competitor with its own rockets. SpaceX is one of several, including OneWeb, Telesat and even Amazon, that are investing in plans to launch thousands of satellites that aim to deliver internet connections to customers below. All of these plans will require billions of dollars in investment—for factories and for the satellites and ground stations that will need to be built, plus the cost of launches and operations.

From the point of view of physics, using an array of satellites orbiting the planet to provide internet access makes a lot of sense. Practically speaking, the problem has been that launching satellites is just too expensive compared with laying cable here on Earth. But now, the business plan is attractive to investors again, thanks to growing demand for connectivity around the world, alongside cheaper and more powerful satellites. Each of these companies is using an unproven architecture—flying what could eventually be thousands of satellites at altitudes far lower than traditional communications satellites in order to improve connection speeds. And analysts believe the telecom market will not support all of the firms vying to operate high-velocity computers orbiting Earth.

SpaceX is about to take the lead in the satellite internet race SpaceX has packed 60 satellites onto one rocket to advance its big internet plan (LA Times)