Rich McCormick on SpaceX's plans for internet satellites:
The company will launch additional satellites in phases until 2024, at which point Cooper says the network should have reached full capacity, with the craft operating on the Ka- and Ku-band frequencies. SpaceX will be using its own Falcon 9 rockets to get the satellites into low Earth orbit — a measure that will help it save costs, and ensure it’s not beholden to the launch schedules of other spacefaring firms.
Cooper said the plan would put 4,425 satellites into orbit around the Earth, operating in 83 planes, at fairly low altitudes of between 1,110 kilometers and 1,325 kilometers. The company will also support its network with ground control centers, gateway stations, and other Earth-based facilities. That makes it an ambitious plan, not least in terms of volume. There are only an estimated 1,459 satellites in orbit around our planet at the moment — the SpaceX scheme would launch triple that figure, potentially cluttering up the space around Earth, making future launches potentially difficult and dangerous.
All the focus on SpaceX always seems to be about the most ambition goal: colonizing Mars. And perhaps rightfully so. But this seems like one of those things that could have a far greater impact on a far larger number of people in a much nearer term -- if it works, of course. And if it does, it's also how SpaceX will get the money it needs for said Mars mission...Read more...