The two satellites will attempt to beam the words ‘hello world’ back to Earth as part of the test.
SpaceX Starlink Demo Launch
SpaceX on Thursday launched a pair of demo satellites into orbit, which will be used to test satellite-based broadband service.
The satellites were part of a payload in a Falcon 9 rocket that took flight from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted video of the two satellites, Tintin A and B, entering Earth’s orbit.
“Tintin A & B will attempt to beam ‘hello world’ in about 22 hours when they pass near LA,” Musk said this morning.
Satellite-powered internet is nothing new, but SpaceX promises to make it faster—up to 1Gbps per user—and more affordable than existing systems via a network of 12,000 of satellites into low-orbit. Latency will range between 25 to 35 miliseconds, putting it on par with ground-based internet services. (In contrast, the median latency for other satellite-based services can range between 599 to 629 miliseconds, according to the FCC.)
Thursday’s launch will test the broadband antennas onboard both demo satellites, which will communicate with ground stations on Earth. “However, even if these satellites work as planned, we still have considerable technical work ahead of us,” SpaceX engineer Tom Praderio said in a video of Thursday’s launch.
SpaceX initially proposed launching 4,425 satellites into orbit, with the first batch slated to take flight in 2019. Together, they would circle around the Earth from a distance of about 700 miles, creating broadband coverage across the globe. However, the company is also proposing sending another 7,518 satellites, which will orbit the Earth at a closer range of 200 miles. These satellites would offer broadband access to areas of high demand, like urban centers.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gave his support to the SpaceX project last week, saying it could bring affordable internet access to US residents in remote areas like rural America.