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The 60 internet satellites SpaceX just launched will be but the tip of a very large off-Earth iceberg, if all goes according to plan.
Last night (May 23), SpaceX lofted the first five dozen members of its Starlink broadband constellation to low-Earth orbit (LEO) using one of the company's workhorse Falcon 9 rockets. Starlink is designed to provide internet connectivity to people around the world, and it will do so using a truly enormous number of satellites.
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Starlink won't be able to provide "minor" coverage until about 400 spacecraft are up and running, and "moderate" coverage requires about 800 operational satellites, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said. But the company doesn't plan to stop at "moderate."
Related: SpaceX's 1st Starlink Satellite Megaconstellation Launch in Photos!
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A view of SpaceX's first 60 Starlink satellites in orbit, still in stacked configuration, with the Earth as a brilliant blue backdrop on May 23, 2019.
"In a year and a half, maybe two years, if things go well, SpaceX will probably have more satellites in orbit than all other satellites combined — a majority of the satellites in orbit will be SpaceX," Musk said last week during a prelaunch teleconference with reporters.
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That milestone will come around Starlink launch number 30, with 1,800 satellites delivered to orbit, he said.
But the number could rise higher still — much higher, in fact. The Federal Communications Commission has granted SpaceX permission to launch a total of nearly 12,000 Starlink satellites.
Musk - SpaceX - Pains - Constellation - Collision
Musk said SpaceX has taken great pains to ensure the constellation doesn't pose a collision risk to the other denizens of LEO. For example, he said the Starlink satellites can automatically navigate around...
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