Musk: SpaceX’s Starlink has enough orbiting satellites for public beta

  • Elon Musk said Tuesday that SpaceX’s internet satellite project, Starlink, has now launched enough satellites for its public beta.
  • Musk tweeted that once the most-recently launched satellites are in position, the company will roll out a “fairly wide public beta” in the northern US and southern Canada.
  • The goal of Starlink is to put a constellation of satellites into orbit that can beam high-speed internet to remote parts of the Earth.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Elon Musk’s goal of beaming high-speed internet to remote parts of the Earth using orbiting satellites just got a step closer to reality.

SpaceX on Tuesday successfully launched a batch of 60 satellites, bringing the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit to more than 700, per Ars Technica. Musk, SpaceX’s CEO, said this is enough for a public beta.

“Once these satellites reach their target position, we will be able to roll out a fairly wide public beta in northern US & hopefully southern Canada,” he tweeted following the launch.

This beta would include the Detroit metro area and Ann Arbor, Michigan, he said, responding to a question on Twitter.

“Other countries to follow as soon as we receive regulatory approval,” he added.

Musk did not say exactly when the spacecraft were expected to reach their “target position,” and astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told Ars Technica that it’s possible they might not be in place until February 2021.

Musk said in April that a public beta for the service would be up and running in Fall 2020. He also said in May 2019 that a commercially viable “initial” version of Starlink’s service for the US would be possible with 400 satellites, while 800 would be enough for “significant” global coverage.

It’s therefore possible, as Ars Technica’s report noted, that the public beta will get underway as these final 60 satellites are getting into position over the course of the next few months.

A very limited beta test of the tech began in Washington State in September, but it was restricted to the state military and emergency responders.

The ultimate goal of Starlink is to get as many as 42,000 satellites into orbit above the Earth, able to beam down high-speed broadband internet to remote locations where it’s difficult to get coverage. Starlink says on its website that it wants coverage in the US and Canada by the end 2020, and “near global coverage” by 2021.

SpaceX has a strong incentive to make Starlink commercially viable: Musk said in 2019 that the project would be an important revenue stream for the company, and suggested in September that the company will “probably IPO” Starlink in a few years’ time, if and when revenue is growing evenly.

Not everyone is excited by the pace of Starlink’s deployments. Astronomers have repeatedly voiced concerns that the satellites could interfere with astronomical research.

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