SpaceX is ready to take its next step in its plan to overhaul internet delivery. The company will deliver a batch of 60 satellites into low-Earth orbit as the first set for a constellation of satellites the company is calling Starlink. The company eventually plans to have thousands of satellites orbiting over Earth to make low-cost internet available for a significant portion of the world’s population.
Right now, internet is mostly delivered via wireless cell towers or cables. Rural and impoverished communities have considerable difficulty obtaining affordable access this way. While there are options for satellite-based internet, it’s often too expensive for common consumers and have annoying lag times reminiscent of the dial-up era.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk explained how the company’s Starlink satellite network will work on a call with media. SpaceX ultimately wants to create a massive megaconstellation that would blanket low-Earth orbit. The full Starlink network would consist of 11,943 satellites, taking at least 12 launches to provide coverage for a significant portion of the world’s population. SpaceX also plans to operate 1 million “earth stations” in the U.S. to connect the satellites to the ground.
The total cost of the project will be billions of dollars. Musk confirmed that SpaceX has the capital required to complete the project’s first major phase. In its last funding round last April, the company sought to raise about $400 million. Musk commented that the funding round attracted “more interest than we were seeking.”
SpaceX isn’t the only horse in this race. OneWeb and Amazon are big competition, but there are also lesser known companies, like LeoSat and Telesat. Last month, Amazon unveiled plans for its Kuiper Project, a constellation of miniature satellites that will deliver cheap, high-speed internet to every corner of the planet.