Published: Fri, May 17, 2019
Science | By

Musk says Starlink "economically viable" with around 1,000 satellites

Musk says Starlink

Elon Musk also said that another six launches are required for achieving a minor coverage of the desired satellite network and another six for achieving moderate coverage; bringing the number of Starlink satellites to 420 and 780 respectively. He has also pointed out that things will not go perfectly or smoothly during the first deployment; however it will help in making the future launches more smooth and hassle-free.

Here's how the ambitious Starlink project would work.

Getting tens, hundreds, or thousands of satellites into space and operational "is no small feat", he said.

In the race to put up large constellations, it's unclear which of the companies, if any, will be successful.

The idea behind the Starlink project is to provide global internet coverage from space with very short lag times.

With every launch, SpaceX will add about a terabit of "usable capacity", Musk said, and two to three terabits overall. Attempts by Iridium and Globalstar failed after both ended up in bankruptcy.

Musk said SpaceX would begin approaching customers later this year or next year. He declined to comment on his competitors, saying only that the company was focused on Starlink and that "it's always good to have competition".

SpaceX launched a pair of Starlink demonstration satellites in February of previous year.

Amazon unveiled its Kuiper Project plans last month. SpaceX chose krypton because it is less expensive than xenon, Musk said.

Musk said SpaceX has not tried to win customers for Starlink yet, believing it would be better to have a firm grasp on its constellation deployment schedule first. Frustrated with the pace at which Starlink satellites were being developed, he fired at least seven members of the program's senior management team at a campus in Redmond, Washington, outside Seattle, Reuters reported.

SpaceX asked for and received US market access for a constellation numbering nearly 12,000 satellites. These new satellites will be significantly different, Musk said. In an earlier fundraising round, when it attempted to raise $500 million, it sold only $273 million in equity, according to an SEC filing from January.

Musk said Starlink's newest 60 satellites carry phased array antennas and ion propulsion units that run on krypton instead of the typical xenon gas. He didn't provide amounts for how much capital the company raised, but said: "At this point, it looks like we have sufficient capital to get to an operational level".

Putting up enormous constellations of satellites has anxious some in the space industry given the large amount of debris in orbit.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (in center, in a horizontal position), is readied for launch on a supply mission to the International Space Station on historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 17, 2017.

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