Earlier this week, SpaceX launched its third batch of Starlink internet satellites into space. The latest mission marks the start of an uptick in such launches that’s expected to see hundreds of Starlink satellites deployed over the coming months, paving the way for an internet service from space.
We’ve heard much about the satellites themselves since the first batch headed skyward in May 2019, but not so much about how customers will connect to the internet via the satellites.
Well, in recent days, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told us a little bit about the device that users of the Starlink service will need to get started.
According to the billionaire entrepreneur, anyone signing up to Starlink will receive a contraption that looks like a “thin, flat, round UFO on a stick.”
We’re not sure about the size of the so-called Starlink Terminal, but apparently it will include internal motors that will enable the device to automatically adjust to receive the optimal signal from SpaceX’s internet-giving satellites as they travel in low-Earth orbit.
In his tweet (below), Musk said it would be super-simple to get the Starlink Terminal up and running, describing the two necessary steps: 1. Plug in socket, and 2. Point at sky.
According to the SpaceX CEO, there’s “no training required” to set up the terminal, a fact sure to delight any technophobes out there who may one day be tempted to sign up for Starlink.
Looks like a thin, flat, round UFO on a stick. Starlink Terminal has motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky. Instructions are simply:
– Plug in socket
– Point at sky
These instructions work in either order. No training required.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2020
SpaceX says its $10 billion Starlink project aims to provide “fast, reliable internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.” A number of other companies are competing with SpaceX to provide similar kinds of services.
In May 2019, Musk suggested that Starlink could one day rake in up to $50 billion in annual revenue if it can secure just a few percent of the global telecommunications market. He added that the project could be economically viable with 1,000 satellites, though it could deploy many more satellites that would allow it to provide a wider range of services.
But there are hurdles to overcome. Astronomers, for one, are anxious that having so many satellites in low-Earth orbit could hinder their work, with sun rays reflecting off the satellites potentially impacting their ability to get a clear view of deep space.
In an effort to solve this particular problem, SpaceX included in the latest batch a satellite with a special coating to eliminate the reflection. If that goes well, all future Starlink satellites will have the same coating applied.
SpaceX said it’s aiming to start testing an internet service in the U.S. by the middle of this year, so it shouldn’t be too long before folks across the country will have the chance to get their hands on that thin, flat, round UFO on a stick.