SpaceX nails landing; 100 Mb/s from Starlink

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SpaceX launched a South Korean military satellite on July 20th, and just 8 minutes after launch brought down the Falcon 9’s first stage onto a textbook landing onto its floating barge (‘Just Read The Instructions’) positioned some 645 kms down range. This was the 12th launch this year for SpaceX.

Not satisfied with recovering the expensive rocket, SpaceX’s two recovery vessels (‘GO Ms. Tree’ and ‘GO Ms. Chief’) also managed to collect the rocket’s two nose-cone fairings worth about $6 million a pair. Incidentally, this launch for the South Korean satellite represented a record in turnaround time, of just 51 days since the launch rocket last flew, and some two-weeks faster than the 63 days turnaround on the previous record-holder, a SpaceX rocket used in February.

The next launch, towards the end of July, will be carrying 57 more Starlink satellites (plus a few guest smallsats), and Elon Musk’s team is planning to use a booster that’s already flown five time, another SpaceX record use of its equipment.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s Starlink team is also working on the ground receive kit that will enable consumers to ‘plug and play’ and connect to Starlink. The well sourced rumours suggest the dish/antenna will measure just 19” across (about 48 cms). Musk has Tweeted that the antenna will incorporate motors to self-adjust to the best viewing angle.

Musk has also said that the dish/antennas will be easily erected by consumers. Perhaps. Certainly, if it’s a garden or patio, but higher than a building’s ground floor will need potentially risky ladders. The experts say that a Starlink satellite will be visible in the sky for about 18 minutes or so, which means that the user’s antenna/modem could be working hard to ‘catch’ the overhead signals and possibly posing potential problems in wear and reliability.

Tim Farrar of TMF Associates, a close follower of Starlink’s plans, says Nebraska regulators were told recently by Starlink that download speeds of 100 Mb/s could be possible (and 40 Mb/s uploads) depending on the density of demand and number of satellites orbiting. “The question is, how many people can get 100 Mb/s?” Farrar asked.

The next question will be much of the planet Starlink will serve? This is far from clear at the moment. We know that Starlink will be serving Alaska and perhaps other Northern US and Canadian locations this summer/autumn. The goal, based on past comments, is to offer near-global coverage “of the populated world” by 2021. The full complement of at least 12,000 satellites – and Musk has filings in place for up to 42,000 satellites – and totally blanketing the planet by 2027 and at affordable prices.

Moreover, the scheme calls for ‘new style’ connectivity to cars and trucks and including Musk’s plans for autonomous self-driving vehicles.


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