Tech titan Elon Musk’s SpaceX is is lofting a pioneering phalanx of internet satellites tonight (May 15).
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying the first 60 spacecraft in SpaceX’s “Starlink” megaconstellation is scheduled to launch tonight at 10:30 p.m. EDT (0230 GMT on May 16) from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
If the venture proves successful, it will throne SpaceX as the first launcher of an internet satellite network, and the sole operator in this domain with its own rockets.
The 60 tightly packed satellites nearly fill the Falcon 9’s payload fairing, as SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk showed in a photo posted on Twitter over the weekend. That same post included an image of Musk’s Tesla Roadster looking tiny inside its fairing ahead of its launch on the first test flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket back in February 2018.
Musk further stated that it would take at least six more launches, with a total of 420 satellites to even establish “minor” coverage of the service.
SpaceX could need at least 12 more launches to compete commercially with terrestrial broadband network.
However, the project may take years to pull off and by then, other competitors will be probably racing to win a bigger slice of the cake.
SpaceX isn’t the only company with internet-satellite dreams. For example, both OneWeb and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plan to start building up megaconstellations of their own in the coming months and years.