SpaceX has announced that it will launch is Starlink service for consumers at some point during 2020. SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell confirmed the news during a roundtable meeting for the media, which was held at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington.
Shotwell had appeared onstage in order to share some updates on the SpaceX project, and told reporters that between six and eight Starlink satellites will be launched in the coming months in order to make the company’s vision possible. This figure includes a batch that went operational earlier this year in May.
SpaceX is an aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company, founded by Tesla owner Elon Musk. The long-term aim of SpaceX is to reduce space transportation costs in order to make the colonization of Mars feasible. In the short-term, SpaceX is involved with projects such as Starlink, which will deliver Internet connections at some point next year.
According to SpaceX, 24 launches will be required in order to make the constellation global, and it has also divulged that services associated with the Starlink satellite will begin in the northern region of the United States and Canada next year. Although the 24 satellites are intended to deliver global coverage eventually, Shotwell also revealed that the additional launches will take place in the future, with the aim of expanding and improving coverage.
Recently released documents indicate that SpaceX has acquired as many as 30,000 satellites, in addition to the 12,000 that it has already received permission for, making a total constellation associated with the Starlink project of 42,000. This large figure is intended to meet network capacity and data density as the project grows.
SpaceX is hoping that the global broadband and the satellite constellation will be a money spinner for the company, as it seeks recurring profit in order to engage in more complex projects, including the aforementioned Mars launches services. Nonetheless, this will be a logistically complex undertaking, and experts generally believes that the Starlink satellite system will be cost-intensive in itself.
Shotwell also mentioned during the media briefing that SpaceX continues to test Starlink connectivity for U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory usage. There was no mention of consumer pricing at the SpaceX event, but Shotwell did make the observation that many US consumers currently pay $80 for a service that the company considers to be sub-par.
The United States Air Force is already testing the service in its planes, and SpaceX expects the military to rely on its technological innovation going forward. The implementation of SpaceX has required eight Falcon 9 rockets to be launched, with the first being sent skyward on May 23 this year.
SpaceX is not the only company investigating the possibility of delivering satellite broadband services. Amazon has also announced plans for a so-called mega-constellation, while the companies OneWeb and Telesat are also investigating the matter. However, none of these planned services will be as large as the SpaceX Starlink network.