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SpaceX will start launching Internet satellites in two years

When complete, low-orbit network will triple the number of satellites circling the Earth. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX plans to launch the first of a network of Internet-providing satellites in 2019, company CEO Elon Musk announced during a Senate hearing on broadband infrastructure.

Additional custom-built satellites will be launched in phases through 2024, at which time the network will begin operating on the Ka- and Ku-band frequencies. All will be launched into low-Earth orbit using the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

According to SpaceX vice president of satellite government affairs Patricia Cooper, when complete, the network will encompass 4,425 satellites placed at low altitudes between 689.8 and 823.3 miles (1,100 and 1,325 km) above Earth’s surface in 83 different planes.

That number would triple a number of satellites orbiting our planet, currently totaling 1,459.

The large increase in orbiting satellites could pose problems for future launches from Earth.

However, the satellites will provide the benefit of faster Internet to more people because they will do away with the need to install, rip up, and reinstall cable as is done by ground-based providers.

“In other words, the common challenges associated with sitting, digging trenches, laying fiber, and dealing with property rights are materially alleviated through a space-based broadband network,” Cooper said.

When complete, that network will receive support from facilities on Earth such as control centers and gateway stations.

The company hopes to launch two custom-built satellite prototypes, one this year and another early next year, she added. These will conduct tests to confirm they are capable of providing Internet access for people on Earth.

Once operational, the satellite network will be capable of adapting to circumstances on the ground through actions such as providing additional resources to busy regions to avoid anyone losing access.

Regular system updates will be uploaded to the satellites to keep them operational and avoid their becoming obsolete, Cooper said.

Laurel Kornfeld

Laurel Kornfeld

Staff Writer
Laurel Kornfeld is a freelance writer and amateur astronomer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program.
About Laurel Kornfeld (1015 Articles)
Laurel Kornfeld is a freelance writer and amateur astronomer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program.