Tesla and SpaceX visionary Elon Musk is determined to get us into space. He founded the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (better known as SpaceX) in 2002 with the goal of making private space travel a viable way to explore the stars.
However, that’s not the only way he’s using rockets to reshape the world. Musk’s company is also in the business of delivering payloads of satellites into the Earth’s atmosphere. But last year, he went even further with Starlink.
Starlink is a special project developed by Space X to bring satellite internet to rural areas. “We’re really talking about something which is, in the long term, like rebuilding the internet in space,” Elon Musk said in 2015 when the project was announced.
The project is controversial because of the sheer number of satellites involved. Musk eventually wants to launch as many as 30,000 satellites as part of the remote orbital array. To date, there have only been a total of 9,000 artificial satellites launched into orbit around the planet.
Each satellite in the array weighs about 500 pounds and is the size of your dining room table. Not that big, compared to the endless vacuum of space, but astronomers are concerned that the Starlink array will make it much harder for them to do their jobs. Considering that Musk has described Starlink as a “megaconstellation,” it’s not hard to see why they are concerned.
For many, the benefits will outweigh the possible downsides. When it is operational, Starlink will be able to blanket the globe in high-speed internet access. However, the International Astronomical Union issued a statement against the project in June 2019 following the launch of the first 60 satellites.
“Satellite constellations can pose a significant or debilitating threat to important existing and future astronomical infrastructures, and we urge their designers and deployers as well as policy-makers to work with the astronomical community in a concerted effort to analyse and understand the impact of satellite constellations,” the statement said.
In addition, the European Space Agency is concerned that its own satellites will collide with Starlink. Although Elon Musk and SpaceX received permission from the FCC to launch their satellites, it calls into question whether an agency from a single government should get to decide what happens in the night sky.
After the initial launch of the first satellite train in May of 2019, SpaceX has continued to build the Starlink network. The company announced that it plans to start offering broadband internet service sometime in 2020. The U.S. Air Force is already testing Starlink in some planes.
Elon Musk allegedly sent the very first tweet using Starlink in October of last year. However, the product is not yet available for home consumers. The company plans to roll out service in “the Northern U.S. and Canada” this year, with plans to expand to “near global coverage of the populated world” in 2021.
Check out the fascinating (and eerie) video below to see the satellite train for yourself. If you’d seen that in the night sky without knowing what it was, you would 100% think: Aliens.