Next SpaceX Launch To Carry 60 Satellites

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SpaceX head Elon Musk tweeted out a photo of 60 Starlink satellites packed into the nose of a Falcon rocket. SpaceX is slated to launch the rocket Wednesday, but the photo previews Musk’s desire to provide internet access around the world where ground-based infrastructure is impossible to too expensive.

The 60 Starlink satellites are the current production spec, whereas the two launched in February 2018 were development mules. Musk says that at least another six launches of 60 satellites each will be needed for “minor” internet service. SpaceX hopes to have the internet service starting next year, while it continues to launch bundles of satellites through 2024.

Unlike other satellite-internet providers, SpaceX wants to fly several of its non-geosynchronous satellites at lower-than-customary altitudes to help reduce signal latency. Originally intended to fly its satellites between 690 and 823 miles, SpaceX has asked for (and received) permission to fly almost 1600 of those satellites as close as 340 miles up.

Starlink could eventually offer internet service to any location on the planet with a fleet of 12,000 satellites. To ensure that non-functional satellites are removed from their orbits (a gambit to reduce their impact as “space junk”), the satellites are designed to burn up completely as they re-enter the atmosphere.

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