The announcement follows SpaceX’s latest launch of 60 new Starlink satellites on Tuesday. The ambitious project envisions a mega-constellation of tens of thousands of satellites that will provide high-speed broadband to every corner of the globe. Since 2019, more than 700 Starlink satellites have been launched, meaning it will still take a while before the dream materialises.
But SpaceX chief Elon Musk, 49, has said on Twitter enough satellites have been launched to kick start Starlink’s operations in parts of the US and Canada.
He confirmed a “fairly wide” public beta will be ready once the latest Starlink satellites reach their target orbits.
Starlink customers outside of North America will then need to wait for SpaceX to secure all the needed paperwork.
Mr Musk tweeted: “Once these satellites reach their target position, we will be able to roll out a fairly wide public beta in northern US and hopefully southern Canada.
In April this year, Mr Musk suggested a Starlink constellation of just 800 satellites could be enough for global coverage.
However, the network’s broadband speeds would be a far cry from the one gigabit per second speeds SpaceX has promised.
According to Starlink’s website, the service will provide high-speed broadband to those parts of the world where “access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable”.
The website reads: “Starlink is targetting service in the Northern US and Canada in 2020, rapidly expanding near-global coverage of the populated world by 2021.”
So far, Starlink has been tested in a limited capacity among first responders in the US.
Earlier this month, seven Starlink terminals were loaned to the Washington Emergency Management Division (WEMD) to aid rescue and relief work in rural areas during a time of widespread wildfires.
The WEMD tweeted: “Happy to have the support of @SpaceX’s Starlink internet as emergency responders look to help residents rebuild the town of Malden, WA that was overcome by wildfires earlier this month.”
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And although there is a lot of excitement surrounding SpaceX’s proposed mega-constellation of 12,000 satellites, concerns have also been raised by astronomers.
In particular, astronomers and scientists fear the rise of mega-constellations from companies likes SpaceX, OneWeb and Amazon will hinder future observations of the night sky with visible satellite trains as well as radio-based astronomy.
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) said last June: “The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is concerned about these satellite constellations.
“The organisation, in general, embraces the principle of a dark and radio-quiet sky as not only essential to advancing our understanding of the Universe of which we are a part, but also as a resource for all humanity and for the protection of nocturnal wildlife.
“We do not yet understand the impact of thousands of these visible satellites scattered across the night sky and despite their good intentions, these satellite constellations may threaten both.”
In the wake of the concerns, SpaceX has vowed to limit the impact Starlink satellites will have on the night sky.
The company maintains satellites in operational orbits will not be a hindrance and the satellites have also been altered in design to reduce how much light they reflect at night.
However, a Satellite Constellations 1 (Satcon 1) report published this August stated: “Astrophotography, amateur astronomy, and the human experience of the stars and the Milky Way are already affected.”
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World news – GB – SpaceX news: Starlink internet ready for public use after latest launch, Elon Musk says