While Elon Musk’s SpaceX has made a name out of reinventing space travel and exploration, one of its long-term plans is to fill the sky with satellites transmitting high-speed Internet to every point on the globe. Last year, the company launched a pair of test satellites into orbit, and now, for the first time, we get a look at 60 of the final versions loaded up and ready to launch.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 12, 2019
The satellites form a network that SpaceX is calling Starlink, which will consist of 7,000 total satellites when finished. Unlike traditional communication satellites, which orbit in geostationary orbits at an extreme distance from the Earth, the Starlink satellites will sit in low-Earth orbit. That gives them several advantages over those traditional communication satellites: They can be much smaller and cheaper, and the Internet speeds can be much faster with very low latency.
The big disadvantage, of course, is that to have a proper global network, SpaceX will need to launch 7,000 satellites. Elon Musk said on Twitter that Starlink will only need about 420 satellites for minor coverage, likely spanning just the United States. That basic network could be up and running by next year, but it will likely take several years to bring Internet coverage to the rest of the world.
If everything goes according to plan, the first 60 Starlink satellites will be launched into space on Wednesday.