Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has used Twitter to tease the imminent launch of the first batch of low Earth orbit satellites for providing broadband to humans across the planet.
Musk is betting that his SpaceX Starlink constellation of around 12,000 satellites will be able to deliver high-speed internet to people at an affordable price.
Musk on Sunday showed off images of some of the first 60 satellites that SpaceX will launch into space this week, probably on Wednesday, inside a Falcon 9 rocket.
Musk has predicted the network will be able to go live in the mid-2020s once about 800 satellites have been launched. The network will eventually consist of around 12,000 satellites that would deliver 1Gbps speeds to users on Earth.
In April, US regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved SpaceX’s plan to launch 4,409 Starlink satellites with 1,584 orbiting at an altitude of 550km rather than the previous request of 1,150km. The FCC also approved over 7,000 additional Starlink satellites in November.
Musk noted that the 60 satellites to be launched this week are “production design”, unlike its Tintin A and B demo satellites that were launched early last year.
The plan is that thousands of small satellites will form a mesh network that will use V band, which covers 40GHz to 75GHz, to connect with each other. They’ll use Ka/Ku radio bands to deliver internet to receivers on Earth.
Other firms in the broadband space race include Kepler, Telesat Canada, LeoSat, and Amazon CEO’s Blue Origin.
Musk warned that “much will likely go wrong” on the first mission and that for “moderate” coverage, SpaceX would need 12 successful missions with about 60 satellites each to total 760 satellites.
This week’s launch won’t become part of the actual Starlink mesh network. While the 60 satellites are production design, as Spacenews reports, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell last week said they were still demonstration satellites that are missing the equipment to link up as a mesh network.
Amazon is currently known to be planning to put 3,236 internet-beaming satellites into low Earth orbit, with 784 at 367 miles (590km), 1,296 at 379 miles (610km), and 1,156 at 391 miles (630km).