Advanced Television

Musk ready to start Starlink services

October 8, 2020

By Chris Forrester

Elon Musk, in a tweet after the latest Starlink launch, said that once this batch of 60 satellites are in their correct orbital positions then a test broadband service will start.

“We will be able to roll out a fairly wide public beta [service] in northern US & hopefully southern Canada,” Musk said. “Other countries to follow as soon as we receive regulatory approval.”

Normally it would take about 2-3 weeks following launch to place a flight of satellites into their designated positions.

Musk’s SpaceX rockets have launched around 775 satellites into orbit and is expected to place another 60 into orbit before the end of October. However, a batch of satellites launched in May 2019 have been deliberately de-orbited. SpaceX has yet to give a reason for the de-orbiting.

Spaceflight analyst Jonathan McDowell says that 39 satellites were de-orbited from that May 2019 launch.

ViaSat of California, an existing supplier of broadband services by satellite and a rival to Musk’s system, told the FCC in a filing in September that SpaceX was suffering in-orbit failures running at about 7 per cent.

Viasat said: “An actual failure rate this high, manifesting after such a small fraction of a Starlink satellite’s design life has passed, optimistically implies a staggering 22 per cent failure rate over the duration of the Starlink mission.”

However, SpaceX followed up these claims with its own September 29th statement to the FCC arguing that it had reported no failures in the last 233 Starlink satellites launched, and accusing ViaSat of refusing to allow facts to get in the way of the story it wishes to be true.

“SpaceX continues to work to improve the performance and reliability of its vehicles,” said the statement.

The October 6th launch was the 13th batch of Starlink craft to be launched. SpaceX has frequently said that its service will beam broadband connectivity at speeds of up to 100 Mb/s that conventional land-based services cannot reach economically.

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