Elon Musk's SpaceX is launching the first of 12,000 Starlink satellites to cover Earth in high-speed internet. Here's how the ambitious project might work.
- Elon Musk's SpaceX plans to launch its first 60 of nearly 12,000 internet-providing satellites on Wednesday evening.
- Starlink, as the project is called, could move internet data about 50% faster than is physically possible with current fiber-optic cables.
- Financial institutions have a lot to gain: Starlink could relay information about far-away markets significantly faster than modern technologies permit.
- Starlink should also bring cheap, blazing-fast internet to remote areas, airplanes, ships, and cars, plus make international teleconferencing and online gaming nearly lag-free.
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SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, is starting to launch an internet revolution.
On Wednesday between 10:30 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. EDT, weather permitting, SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Crammed inside the rocket's nosecone will be 60 tabletop-size satellites designed to test a floating internet backbone called Starlink.
If completed in 2027, Starlink will consist of nearly 12,000 satellites - six times the number of all operational spacecraft now in orbit. The goal is to blanket the Earth with high-speed, low-latency, and affordable internet access.
Even partial deployment of Starlink would benefit the financial sector and bring pervasive broadband internet to rural and remote areas. Though completing the project may cost $10 billion or more, according to Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, leaked company documents suggest Starlink's revenue could peak at more than $30 billion a year.
It's not going to be easy to pull off, though, as Musk indicated leading up to Wednesday's launch.
"Much will likely go wrong on 1st mission," Musk tweeted on Saturday.
Despite the Starlink's scale and importance to SpaceX, Musk and Shotwell have provided precious few details about it. But Federal Communications Commission (FCC) documents contain enough information for experts to make very educated guesses.
"This is the most exciting new network we've seen in a long time," Mark Handley, a computer networking researcher at University College London who's studied and modeled Starlink, told Business Insider. He added the project could impact the lives of "potentially everybody."
Here's how Starlink might work and how it might change the internet as we know it.