Starlink is proving to be one of the most successful ventures for SpaceX yet. Even though the space exploration company remains highly linked with agencies like NASA and others, its focus on delivering better internet connections to the entire world remains resolute.
After launching over 1,000 satellites into space, Starlink’s vision is now looking more and more accurate. The project is now expanding its capabilities, covering more parts of the Earth in what seems to be a continuous play.
Additional Locations Already Popping Up
Late in July, The Telegraph reported that Starlink had set up a ground station on the Isle of Man - a remote, self-governing island in the Irish Sea. Starlink’s new location is visible on the company’s site, with the government of the Isle of Man claiming that the company had been working with BlueWave - its local communications service provider - to bring the site to life.
BlueWave itself has a ground station just outside Douglas - the capital of the Isle of Man. Last year, it acquired the site from SES Satellite Leasing after the latter pulled out of the Isle of Man. Speaking on why Starlink must have picked the location, a source told The Telegraph that it contains a nearly new and vacant base station array that is linked to data centers. As the station is surrounded by the sea, nothing stands in its way.
The service’s expansion isn’t limited to the Isle of Man alone. Reports confirmed that Starlink had also gotten a license to operate in the Czech Republic. There are rumors that Starlink could start beaming internet access to the European nation as early as September, although a full launch isn’t expected until sometime in 2022.
Besides the Czech Republic, Starlink has also found success with beaming internet access to a remote fishing market in Chile. The company has selected two locations in the country to host its pilot project, and it will be working on expanding its capabilities there as well.
Achieving Break-Neck Speed
With all of this, Starlink seems ready for even bigger launches and plays going forward. The company understands this, and it is starting to meet the demand for its services.
Earlier this week, SpaceX announced that it had shipped 100,000 Starlink terminals. This continues the company’s astonishing pace for the Starlink project, which only started satellite launches in November 2019 and opened its $99-a-month beta program for customers around the end of last year.
Since then, SpaceX has launched over 1,700 satellites into the lower Earth orbit. In addition to the 100,000 shipper terminals, the company has also gotten over 500,000 additional orders for Starlink. SpaceX has benefited from doing things in a closed system, launching its Starlink satellites on its Falcon 9 rocket. With seamless vertical integration, the company has been able to achieve an impressive pace.
For now, most of Starlink's beta customers live in remote and rural areas. This is understandable, with these people being the ones who need access to internet connectivity the most. Broadband access is either nonexistent or highly limited in these parts, so they are the ones that Starlink will be looking to serve.
Customers will pay an upfront fee of $499 for the Starlink service, with the cost covering a starter kit that will get them up and running. The kit includes the terminal, a power supply, a Wi-Fi router, a mounting tripod, and connectivity cables.
No Time to Relent for SpaceX
While these results look impressive, SpaceX claims that they are just the beginning. In an application for next-generation Starlink infrastructure with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this month, SpaceX claimed that it plans to launch about 30,000 Starlink satellites into orbit. It is also looking to expand the service’s range to a few million users.
SpaceX’s application included a proposal; for two separate configurations for its constellation - one of which will involve its next-generation Starship heavy rocket. The constellation will number about 29,988 satellites in total, and SpaceX is also looking to use its Falcon 9 rocket in a separate constellation.
“SpaceX has found ways to leverage the advanced capabilities of its new launch vehicle, Starship, that has increased capability to deliver more mass to orbit quickly and efficiently and, combined with reuse capability of the upper stage, launch more often,” the company explained in its application.
So far, SpaceX’s operations are moving along smoothly. There are still a few years before Starlink can effectively cover the Earth, but initial processes have been more than encouraging so far.