Starlink Signs Up 500,000 Pre-Orders For Satellite Internet

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Elon Musk space venture SpaceX has already signed 500,000 customers on pre-order for its Starlink satellite broadband service

SpaceX has revealed it has already received more than 500,000 orders for the satellite internet service it is deploying in low earth orbit.

“To date, over half a million people have placed an order or put down a deposit for Starlink,” SpaceX operations engineer Siva Bharadvaj was quoted by CNBC as saying during the launch webcast of its 26th Starlink mission.

Launching satellites into orbit is an expensive business. In February SpaceX closed another mammoth funding round that brought in $850m in extra cash.

A stack of flat Starlink satellites prepares to deploy in Earth orbit. Image credit: SpaceX
A stack of flat Starlink satellites prepares to deploy in Earth orbit. Image credit: SpaceX

Pre-order numbers

SpaceX has been regularly launching its own constellation of internet satellites in recent years. The firm currently has 1,500 Starlink satellites in orbit.

In January 2021, Ofcom officially approved Space X Starlink satellite broadband service for use in the United Kingdom.

In early February Starlink began accepting pre-orders for its connectivity service priced at $99 a month.

However, the user also has to pay $499 upfront for the equipment needed to connect to the service. This Starlink Kit reportedly includes a user terminal and Wi-Fi router to connect to the satellites.

In a regulatory filing three months ago, SpaceX reportedly disclosed that Starlink already had “over 10,000 users in the United States and abroad” as of February.

Network intentions

SpaceX intends to place up to 12,000 satellites in orbit, with approximately 2,000 satellites launched per year.

It could eventually place up to 42,000 satellites into orbit in the long term.

The Starlink satellites are initially deployed at an altitude of 290km, before they manoeuvre up to 550km (342 miles) above the earth.

Its reach will be extensive, but there will be some limitations within cities.

“Only limitation is high density of users in urban areas,” tweeted Musk. “Most likely, all of the initial 500k will receive service. More of a challenge when we get into the several million user range.”

Elon Musk has previously made clear that he sees the Starlink service as a way of funding SpaceX’s ambition to develop a spacecraft that can carry passengers to the moon, and eventually colonise Mars.

Rival networks

But Space X is not the only player in rolling out satellite-based Internet connectivity.

The other companies racing to construct satellite-based broadband networks include Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which intends to deploy a 3,200-satellite network known as Project Kuiper.

Other players include Kepler, LeoSat and Telesat Canada.

But perhaps the most immediate challenge to SpaceX’s Starlink comes from British firm OneWeb, which is part owned by the British government, Bharti, and most recently the French satellite operator Eutelsat.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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