SpaceX has successfully launched its first batch of Starlink internet satellites. The 60 satellites will become a massive network of thousands of satellites that deliver internet access throughout the world.
Each satellite weighs about 500 pounds (227 kilograms), making this the heaviest payload ever flown on a Falcon 9. The spacecraft from the second stage vehicle, SpaceX confirmed that all 60 had come online.
The next stage is activating the solar panels to keep the Starlink constellation alive. Launching 60 satellites in a single batch is impressive, but Starlink will eventually feature more than 12,000 orbiting nodes.
Traditional satellite internet suffers from extreme latency of a second or more, but Starlink will feature more than 7,500 in very-low-earth orbit (VLEO) to reduce latency on the ground.
CEO Elon Musk has said it will take another six launches (a total of 420 satellites) before Starlink is usable anywhere in the world. We’ll need a further six launches after that for “significant coverage.”
The system could come online sooner than many expected, though. Musk has said he hopes to have 2,000 satellites launched this year. That would be more than enough to flip the switch.
SpaceX sees Starlink as an essential new venture that could fund valuable research. The company projects revenues from Starlink internet subscriptions could reach as much as $3 billion per year.