TechnologySatellite internet startup Astranis books first commercial launch on SpaceX Falcon 9
SpaceX is still in control of all but three of its internet satellites
How are SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites faring roughly a month after launch? Quite well, if you ask SpaceX. The company reported that it's in contact with 57 of the 60 initial broadband satellites. Although it's not certain what happened to those three faulty satellites, they'll eventually fall to Earth as gravity drags them down. SpaceX also intends to deorbit two of the functioning satellites in order to test the process. It's still early days for Starlink, but it suggests that you won't see a host of dead satellites clogging up Earth's orbit. The concern is more one of scale.
Y Combinator-backed startup Astranis is now set to launch its first commercial telecommunication satellite aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, with a launch timeframe currently set for sometime starting in the fourth quarter of next year. Astranis aims to address the market of people who don't currently have broadband internet access, which is still a huge number globally, and they hope to do so using low-cost satellites that massively undercut the price of existing global telecommunications hardware, which can be built and launched much faster than existing spacecraft, too.
Astranis satellites are much more cost efficient because they're smaller and easier to make, which changes the economics of deployment for potential carrier and connectivity provider partners. Its approach has already attracted the partnership of Microcom subsidiary Pacific Dataport, an Anchorage company that was formed to expand satellite broadband access in Alaska. This will be the goal of the company's first launch with SpaceX, to deliver a single satellite to geostationary orbit that will add more than 7.5 Gbps of capacity to the internet provider's network in Alaska, tripling capacity and potentially reducing costs by "up to three times,".
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This isn't the first ever satellite that Astranis has sent up to space – it launched a demonstration satellite in 2018 to show that its tech could work as advertised. Astranis' approach is distinct from others attempting to offer satellite-based connectivity, including SpaceX's own Starlink project, because it focuses on building satellites that remain in a fixed orbital position relative to the area on the ground where they're providing service, as opposed to using a large constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites that offer coverage because one or more are bound to be over the coverage area at any given time as they orbit the Earth, handing off connections from one to the next.
SpaceX is requesting permission to launch 30,000 more Starlink satellites .
The SpaceX Starlink constellation may end up almost four times bigger than what the company originally planned. According to SpaceNews, the company has asked the International Telecommunication Union for permission to access spectrum for 30,000 more Starlink satellites. When SpaceX first launched the project, it introduced Starlink as a space-based internet network comprised of 12,000 satellites. The ITU and the US Federal Communications Commission already approved the company's request for spectrum access for those 12,000 -- this new batch of requests is for an additional 30,000 units.
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