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.
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.
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.
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.