SpaceX is building 120 Starlink satellites a month, paving the way for a dramatic expansion of its wireless Internet service, but it could also draw more attention from those worried about the impact on astronomy, according tomedia slashGear. The Starlink satellite will use the mesh structure of the low-orbit satellite to provide Internet access to users equipped with an automatic tracking antenna, which can be mounted on a home or motorhome. However, it is not universally accepted.
While the more common targets of Internet access — especially in areas where traditionally wired Internet service providers or cellular networks that use ground base stations — are generally well-off, starlink satellites have a huge impact on the night sky. Astronomers and other scientists have accused SpaceX of interfering with observations because the satellite network is moving in the sky.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has responded by promising a new sun visor-based system that will reduce the satellite’s reflectivity. However, it is unclear how much of an impact this will have. In July, critics expressed strong dissatisfaction with how the Starlink satellite destroyed images of comet Neowise.
However, the turmoil has not hindered SpaceX’s plans. According to documents filed with the FCC, the company launched 57 new VisorSat satellites earlier this month and is currently building an average of 30 a week. At the same time, the company has apparently “invested more than $70 million to develop and produce thousands of consumer user terminals every month.”
Experts told CNBC that this is a speed that is very different from almost all other space industry trends. SpaceX currently has nearly 600 satellites in orbit, but the goal is to deploy a total of about 12,000 satellites. Other companies that develop so-called satellite constellations, they say, aim to produce six more per month.
SpaceX told the FCC that testing for the Starlink satellite’s beta service has begun and is “open to hundreds of users in multiple states,” “including tribal communities.” In fact, interest in Starlink’s beta service has become so strong that the company has asked the FCC to approve a fivefold increase in the number of terminals it can make. That would bring the total to 5 million.
Each terminal looks like a small television satellite receiver. One part is where the sky can be seen, while the other part — connected by a powered Ethernet cable — is indoors, sharing Internet services with other devices as WiFi routers. SpaceX is designed to configure the system automatically so that the receiver automatically locates the best angle to maximize the data rate.
Of course, satellites on the ground are of little use in providing Internet access. SpaceX uses its own Falcon 9 rocket to deploy, but can only carry 60 satellites at a time. Even with approximately once a monthly launch, there is still an increasing hardware backlog waiting to be put into orbit.