The latest launch brings the total number of orbiting Starlink satellites to 482, above the threshold for providing minimal internet coverage
It has been a busy week for SpaceX, who on Saturday sent two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, marking the first manned space flight by a commercial company. Now, just days later, the SpaceX has launched 60 Starlink satellites, the latest in the 482-strong constellation that plans to offer internet services around the world.
The number of satellites launched has been steadily increasing since they began being deployed last year. Previously, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has stated that around 400 satellites would be required to provide minimal internet coverage, while 800 would suffice to provide moderate coverage. However, the company’s ultimate goal is much grander, with plans to launch a total of 12,000 low-earth orbit satellites already agreed by the Federal Communications Commission. In fact, the number could surge to over 30,000, with SpaceX submitting paperwork to the International Telecommunication Union last year as the first step towards launching even more satellites. With this huge number of satellites being planned, SpaceX has come under fire following previous launched, with people claiming that the constellation was too bright and fearing that the sheer scale of the project would affect astronomical observations. In reply, SpaceX have committed to adding special ‘sunshades’ to future launches to reduce the brightness. The launch of commercial services using the Starlink constellation could be as soon as later this year. In March, the company was awarded a licence to create one million user terminals to grant internet access. With such a massive project advancing so rapidly, it is fair to say that satellite internet could really take off as a threat to conventional telcos. Musk, however, has insisted that telcos have nothing to fear from this constellation, since it will primarily be targeting those regions that are unprofitable for telcos to provide for via traditional means.