SpaceX To Launch Broadband Service In 2020 Via Growing StarLink Network

Starlink Mission
60 Starlink satellites prior to deployment. (Image courtesy SpaceX)
SpaceX has announced that it is confident that it will be able to start offering broadband service in the United States by mid-2020 using a constellation of laser-connected Starlink mesh satellites. Reaching that goal will require the company to launch another six to eight batches of satellites into Earth's orbit to provide continuous service in upper and lower latitude bands.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell says that the company will need 24 launches to get global coverage and that every launch after that would add more capacity to the system. SpaceX asked the International Telecommunication Union to approve spectrum for 30,000 additional Starlink satellites to build a low-Earth orbit broadband constellation. Those satellites were in addition to the 12,000 units already approved by the FCC. Shotwell has stated that SpaceX is not certain the company will need that many satellites. Shotwell added that the other spacecraft would allow the company to offer customized service options to customers. 

The executive notes that SpaceX will continue to upgrade the network until mid to late 2020 and that the goal is 24 launches by the end of next year. Global broadband connectivity is something that the military is keen on. SpaceX won a contract with the military for $28 million to test how it might use Starlink broadband services.

So far, that testing has proven that Starlink can provide data throughput of 610 Mbps to the cockpit of a C-12 twin-engine turboprop aircraft while it is in flight. SpaceX still has work to do on the user terminal required for the service, with Shotwell recognizing that the terminals were one thing the company had to get right. SpaceX launched the first 60 Starlink satellites in May.