The Washington Post reports…
SpaceX has received official permission from the U.S. government to launch a fleet of satellites designed to beam high-speed Internet signals down to Earth.
The decision marks a major milestone for chief executive Elon Musk as he pursues a dream of putting 12,000 small satellites into low Earth orbit, connecting rural and developing parts of the world to the Internet.
In more-connected areas, the technology could inject a new competitor into markets that have historically been dominated by one or two Internet providers — potentially driving down prices, increasing speeds and improving service.
They say the network will be different that what folks are used to…
The proposed satellite network would differ from current satellite data technology, which is slow and expensive. Under Musk’s plan, SpaceX’s satellite fleet would orbit much closer to Earth than traditional communications satellites that stay in geostationary orbit high above Earth. That means data will travel to and from the satellite much more quickly — increasing the speed and reliability of the connection.
Better broadband is always awesome. Satellite might suffer from a history of upgrades that while improved, have not impressed all customers. So I wanted to look into the low orbit solution a bit. This is what I learned from Wired…
Traditional satellite communications systems float in what’s called geosynchronous orbit, around 22,000 miles1 above the Earth. These satellites can provide internet access to remote parts of the Earth, as well as airplanes. But the connections can lag, which isn’t good for real-time applications like online gaming or video conferencing. SpaceX and OneWeb both aim to overcome this problem by launching satellites into what’s called low Earth orbit, which ranges from roughly 100 to 1,250 miles above Earth.
The problem is that in order to reach the entire world from low Earth orbit, these companies need hundreds or thousands of satellites, raising the system’s cost. Previous attempts at building low Earth orbit networks ended in bankruptcy, including the Bill Gates-backed Teledesic and satellite-phone companies Globalstar and Iridium.
SpaceX and similar companies, like Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin, are trying to reduce the costs of launching rockets, which lower the cost of building such a network. But it’s not yet clear whether these companies could offer internet access at rates that subscribers can afford, and skeptics worry this will end up costing more than just trenching fiber and building cellular towers.
It sounds like cost may still be an issue, especially for the hardest to reach areas.