A small number of people who expressed an interest in trying the SpaceX Starlink broadband service are expected to be given access this summer.
The Elon Musk-owned space firm has been launching a constellation of broadband providing devices since 2019 and now has 540 satellites in low Earth orbit.
Until now users in the US and Canada wanting to sign up for Starlink broadband were asked to provide a zip or post code – but now they are asked for an address.
This is so SpaceX can determine whether those interested in the service will be within the coverage area of the satellites already put into orbit.
It is thought users in the Northern United States and lower parts of Canada will be the first to have access once at least 600 satellites have been launched.
SpaceX is set to send its tenth batch June 26, but forecasts show the Falcon 9 has just a 40 percent chance of taking off from Kennedy Space Center
In an email to people who registered interest in the service, SpaceX said a private beta will begin this summer with select users and a public test will launch later.
The firm estimates it will need at least 800 satellites to offer a full service, but will have 600 in orbit later this year providing broadband to selected areas.
The company are currently going through the ‘regulatory’ process that includes applying for a telecom licence in Canada allowing it to provide commercial services.
SpaceX plans to launch at least 2,200 satellites over the next five years in order to offer a global broadband service covering even the most remote areas of the world.
They have accelerated efforts over the past month, sending dozens of Starlinks to orbit every week to create its global internet network.
The firm says it hopes to be able to start offering a basic internet service when it has a constellation of at least 800 satellites – likely to happen later this year.
The beta is expected to open up in later this summer or in early Autumn.
‘Private beta testing is expected to begin later this summer, followed by public beta testing, starting with higher latitudes,’ SpaceX said in an email.
If approved, beta testers will be sent a kit by SpaceX that will include a dish and a router that has already been given FCC approval.
SpaceX has been experimenting with ways to make the craft less visible from Earth, and the Jun 4 batch included one experimental craft with an inbuilt sun visor CEO Elon Musk said in April: ‘We have a radio-transparent foam that will deploy nearly upon the satellite being released, and it blocks the sun from reaching the antennas’
The firm has warned connectivity will be intermittent while it builds up its constellation to minimum capacity but the system will be free for testers.
Poor weather conditions postponed SpaceX’s tenth launch of Starlink satellites into orbit for the second time earlier in July but the firm is still on target.
The launch of these satellites would have brought SpaceX’s Starlink constellation to very nearly 600 total spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.
This is now expected to happen later this summer with the rest of the 800 ‘pre-launch’ satellites put into low Earth orbit later in the year.
SpaceX has permission to put 12,000 LEO satellites into space for its Starlink constellation but has asked for permission to put up to 30,000 into orbit.
This would be for a second generation system not yet announced or confirmed.
ELON MUSK’S SPACEX SET TO BRING BROADBAND INTERNET TO THE WORLD WITH ITS STARLINK CONSTELLATION OF SATELLITS
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched the fifth batch of its ‘Starlink’ space internet satellites – taking the total to 300.
They form a constellation of thousands of satellites, designed to provide low-cost broadband internet service from low Earth orbit.
The constellation, informally known as Starlink, and under development at SpaceX’s facilities in Redmond, Washington.
Its goal is to beam superfast internet into your home from space.
While satellite internet has been around for a while, it has suffered from high latency and unreliable connections.
Starlink is different. SpaceX says putting a ‘constellation’ of satellites in low earth orbit would provide high-speed, cable-like internet all over the world.
The billionaire’s company wants to create the global system to help it generate more cash.
Musk has previously said the venture could give three billion people who currently do not have access to the internet a cheap way of getting online.
It could also help fund a future city on Mars.
Helping humanity reach the red planet is one of Musk’s long-stated aims and was what inspired him to start SpaceX.
The company recently filed plans with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit above the Earth – three times as many that are currently in operation.
‘Once fully deployed, the SpaceX system will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service,’ the firm said.
‘Every point on the Earth’s surface will see, at all times, a SpaceX satellite.’
The network will provide internet access to the US and the rest of the world, it added.
It is expected to take more than five years and $9.8 billion (£7.1bn) of investment, although satellite internet has proved an expensive market in the past and analysts expect the final bill will be higher.
Musk compared the project to ‘rebuilding the internet in space’, as it would reduce reliance on the existing network of undersea fibre-optic cables which criss-cross the planet.
In the US, the FCC welcomed the scheme as a way to provide internet connections to more people.