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Space Exploration Technologies Corp.'s (SpaceX) Starlink satellite internet service will soon provide internet connectivity to space travelers and astronauts, according to the company's chief Mr. Elon Musk. Starlink is currently in its beta test phase, which could end soon if Musk's words bear fruit as the executive also believes that the service will be ready for operational service next month. The executive's latest comments for his internet service come as Starlink looks to ramp up its user terminal production and aggressively build out the second part of the first phase of its internet satellite constellation.
Starlink Will Use Laser and non-Laser Satellites To Provide Spacecraft With Internet Connectivity
After putting more than a thousand spacecraft into orbit by the first half of this year, Starlink is now moving forward to deploy upgraded spacecraft, which will greatly reduce the need to use earth stations to transfer user data to and from the internet servers. The network currently relies on the user terminals to transfer user data to the satellites, then beam it to ground stations to complete the connection.
The new satellites will feature optical connectivity, also referred to as lasers, with SpaceX having launched the first batch of the new spacecraft earlier this month with the Falcon 9 rocket. Now, according to comments made by Musk late night yesterday, Starlink will use these spacecraft and the older ones to provide astronauts and other space travelers with internet connectivity as they ascend through the Earth's atmosphere.
His comments came after the crew on board SpaceX's first private crewed space mission shared their meal itinerary, with Musk promising to provide a "food warmer" and "free wifi" next time. He then elaborated to confirm that Starlink will provide internet to future space travelers.
According to him:
Yeah. We’d use our Ka parabolics or laser links for Dragon, Starship or other spacecraft as soon as they got above cloud level.
According to details shared by Musk and SpaceX's president Ms. Gywnne Shotwell, all future satellites launched will feature optical communications. Starlink first tested the new satellites in the second half of last year and launched its first batch of the laser-equipped spacecraft earlier this year.
Yesterday's comments are not the first time Musk has mentioned the new spacecraft. Earlier this month, the executive shared the benefits of using the new satellites, explaining that they will allow Starlink to transfer data with speeds close to the speed of light between the satellites.
Yesterday, Musk also stated that Starlink would exit its beta testing stage next month. This timeline comes as a big chunk of the users who have placed their pre-orders for the service, and its gear continue to wait for deliveries.
SpaceX's chief financial officer Mr. Bret Johnsen has outlined that his company is currently manufacturing 5,000 user terminals per month. The latest information from Starlink suggests it has received roughly half a million pre-orders with approximately one-fifth of them receiving coverage as of now. Johnsen also detailed a new satellite terminal that is cheaper and faster to manufacture than its predecessor, hoping that this will enable SpaceX to significantly scale up terminal production.
SpaceX intends to use Starlink to provide connectivity to astronauts leaving the Earth and potential travelers to Mars. These details, and more, were shared by Ms. Shotwell during a talk with Time Magazine last year when she stated:
So Patrick there were lots of reasons to enter into the telecom business. The companies always want growth and this was a good opportunity for growth for us, but there's other reasons as well. A low earth orbiting broadband constellation has never been successful. We always take on huge, visionary goals. And this was a goal worth taking on. No one has yet been successful, in fact Elon is always talking about [how] this business is littered with dead bodies, with companies that have not made it. So it was a challenge for us to go do.
So that was one reason. The second reason was once we take people to Mars, they're gonna need a capability to communicate. In fact, I think it will be even more critical to have a constellation like Starlink around Mars. And then of course you need to connect the two planets as well, so we need to make sure we have robust telecom between Mars and back to Earth.