The life and times of Elon Musk are an extraordinary affair, so much so that it’s hard to keep track of what the CEO and tech expert is up to. From heading up companies like Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company, investing in projects like an electric leaf blower or robot taxi service, to launching a rap career via Soundcloud, following Musk’s ventures is nothing short of entertaining.
Just last night, Musk announced on Twitter that he would be sending a “tweet through space via Starlink satellite.” And before we could even work out just what he was talking about and get round to liking the Tweet itself, Musk replied to the thread: “Whoa, it worked!!”
While we’re not avid fans of Shark Tank here, we’d assume that the first rule of advertising is to never express shock at the success of a product, you’d assume that would be a guarantee, right? But in his defence, what Musk achieved using the space Internet is pretty outstanding. Here’s why.
Whoa, it worked!!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) 22 October 2019
What is space Internet?
Consider ‘space Internet’ the crude term for it, but what Musk essentially used is the SpaceX Starlink Internet constellation, currently consisting of just 60 satellites. And if reports from Gizmodo are correct, three of those aren’t even working.
When a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket deposited the smallsats at an altitude of 400 kilometres back in May, Musk was quick to counter that it would be some time before the system was functioning, let alone of any use. For Musk, the Starlink satellites would only reach “significant operational capacity” when there were 800 of them, but his recent Tweet suggests they’re already functioning.
Are there concerns?
While we haven’t reached out to Channel 10’s dapper astrophysicist and successfully-coupled bachelor Matt Agnew, it seems most astronomers aren’t too happy with the Starlink satellites. When they were deployed in May, they were incredibly bright in the sky, which led many to raise concern over how they will interfere with scientific observations of space.
Meanwhile, other experts believe the Starlink satellites might increase the chances of collision in space. This concern has been enhanced by news that Amazon and OneWeb are also looking to create satellites and deploy them into space, creating further traffic. Add to this the fact that the European Space Agency had to perform a “collision avoidance manoeuvre” to prevent its Aeolus satellite from potentially smashing into a Starlink satellite” just in September, and it looks like this will be a subject of further debate.
Plans for the future
It’s expected that the system will eventually go live during the 2020s, at which point Starlink will hopefully provide low-cost broadband Internet to virtually every location on Earth, regardless of how remote they are. The satellites are parked low in orbit and cross-linked, meaning that they create a kind of shell around the globe.
Musk expects Starlink to be “economically viable” at 1,000 units, but as Tech Crunch reports, the company has expressed its intent to put as many as 30,000 more Starlink satellites into orbit, with 12,000 already planned.