Three years ago, it became known about Ilona Mask’s new project to create a global satellite internet via a mesh network of 12,000 mini satellites in low earth orbit, each of which covers broadband communications with a delay of 25 ms with a territory of 1060 km radius .
Apparently, the beginning of an ambitious project will not take long. On this Saturday, February 17, 2018, the launch of the Falcon 9 booster rocket with the 1,360-pound Spanish Paz satellite from the Vandenberg base in California is scheduled . As a “secondary cargo” in the cargo compartment will add two mini-satellites – Microsat 2a and 2b. These are prototypes of satellites from the future global satellite constellation SpaceX.
On November 15, 2016, SpaceX requested permission to operate its own satellite service in Earth’s orbit, in which its subsidiary company will act as an operator. According to the document, the massive SpaceX satellite network will consist of no more than 4,425 satellites (with spare – up to 4591) in low-earth orbit, providing high-speed Internet access services globally in the Ku (10.7-18 GHz) frequency bands, and Ka (26.5-40 GHz).
In March 2017, the company filed a new application for another 7,518 satellites, bringing the total to 11,943, not counting the backup ones!
Each satellite is declared to weigh 386 kg and a size of 4 × 1.8 × 1.2 m, that is, with an average passenger car, not including solar panels. Service life – from five to seven years. According tocalculating lozga , the Falcon 9 booster can put 23 such satellites into orbit. With this loading, a minimum of 70 Falcon 9 launches will be required to output the first 1,600 satellites – and at least 520 launches to bring the entire group into orbit. For comparison, OneWeb plans to launch 32 of its satellites on the Soyuz.
Perhaps, thanks to Falcon Heavy, the number of launches can be drastically reduced – and the project will cost less. The cost of the project was initially estimated at $ 10 billion. For its implementation, it is planned to create a new commercial company Space Exploration Technologies Corp, among investors are called Google and Fidelity Investments. Investors have already invested in the new space startup Ilona Mask about $ 1 billion.
Similar plans for the creation of huge groupings of mini satellites are borne by SpaceX competitors. So, OneWeb, Telesat and other companies also made new applications. Thus, the total number of satellites planned for breeding is a fantastic 18,470 pieces. For comparison, now on orbit of the Earth only about 1400 satellites work, including 800 in low orbit.
If the test satellites Microsat 2a and 2b successfully go into orbit, the SpaceX engineers will check the operation of the communication equipment in the Ku-band. The documents for the Federal Communications Commission indicate that the ground stations are located at SpaceX facilities in Redmond and Brewster, Washington, at the headquarters of the company in Hawthorne, Pa. California, at the SpaceX test center in McGregor, Texas, in Barunsville, Texas, at Tesla Motor headquarters in Fremont, California. Three more ground stations will work in mobile vans. The company also negotiates with partners about the operation of ground stations in New Zealand and Norway.
In addition, the company expects to support the network of ground stations KSAT.
Theoretically, the user in any corner of the Earth can connect to the satellite network SpaceX and enter the free network regardless of the attempts of censorship by the government of his country. Ilon Mask said that the terminal will cost from $ 100 to $ 300, depending on the type of terminal.
In May 2017, SpaceX announced that the practical implementation of plans for the creation of a satellite network will begin in 2019, and the launch of a network, probably called Starlink , is scheduled for a limited amount in 2020.