SpaceX Launches 60 Satellites to Start Its Internet Service

SpaceX has helped launch numerous communications satellites for other companies across the globe, but this project would be the company’s entrance into the telecommunications industry as a satellite provider.

by Chabeli Herrera, Orlando Sentinel / May 14, 2019
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard, is seen after being raised into a vertical position on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission, Feb. 28 2019, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This week a Falcon 9 rocket will launch 60 satellites of the Starlink Internet service. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images/TNS) **FOR USE WITH THIS STORY ONLY** TNS

(TNS) — The first satellites in what may one day be a mega constellation that will provide blanket Internet coverage across the globe will head to space this week.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX expects to launch the first 60 satellites of the company’s planned Starlink Internet service Wednesday from 10:30 p.m. to midnight at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 40.

SpaceX has already helped launch numerous communications satellites for other companies across the globe, but Starlink would be the company’s entrance into the telecommunications industry as a satellite provider. The aim for SpaceX is to send up a network of about 12,000 satellites to low-Earth orbit by the mid-2020s, providing broadband coverage across the globe.

If successful, the service could be a major revenue generator for SpaceX, bankrolling some of its loftier ambitions, including a journey to Mars.

The Federal Communications Commission approved SpaceX for 4,425 satellites in March 2018 and an additional 7,518 satellites in November 2018 to provide coverage to residential, commercial, institutional, governmental, and professional users. The company already sent up two prototype satellites in February 2018, and the additional satellites launching this week will also be test satellites.

Speaking at the Satellite 2019 conference earlier this month, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and CEO, said, “this next batch of satellites will really be a demonstration set for us to see the deployment scheme and start putting our network together,” according to Space News. Depending on how they perform, SpaceX plans two to six additional launches this year.

Musk tweeted a photo of the satellites tightly packed into a Falcon 9 rocket fairing Saturday.

“Much will likely go wrong on (first) mission,” he tweeted, adding that six more launches of 60 satellites would be needed for minor broadband coverage and 12 for moderate coverage.

Clouds are the predominant concern going into Wednesday’s launch, but conditions are looking 80 percent favorable, according to the 45th Weather Squadron.

If the launch moves to Thursday, the weather remains 80 percent “go” for launch.

©2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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