SpaceX’s Starlink Satellite Constellation Could Get Much Bigger

Share

Starlink—Musk’s Plan for Next-Generation Internet Service—Could Potentially Include Up To 42,000 Satellites!

We reported earlier this year about concerns over the size of Musk’s constellation. Terrestrial astronomers were concerned that the plans—which then proposed 12,000 satellites—would pollute their view of the night sky. Now SpaceX has applied for permission from the ITU—a U.N. agency that regulates orbital space—to add up to 30,000 more satellites into the Starlink constellation.

According to an article in Space News, the application is a preliminary step. And there’s no guarantee that SpaceX will even manufacture, let alone launch that many satellites. The great Musk himself even said earlier this year that Starlink could be economically viable with only 1,000 satellites.

Wait. Let’s think about that last sentence for a moment.

I wrote, “…only 1,000 satellites.” That little word “only” is a sticking point, it turns out. For instance, it might be more appropriately employed in the following sentence, which is also true: “There are currently only 2000 or so operational satellites orbiting Earth right now.”

So, even if Musk and co. only put a thousand satellites in the sky, they’re still increasing the satellite population by 50%. If they put up the 12,000 they already have clearance for from the FCC, they’ll sextuple that population. 42,000 is what Mel Brooks would call “ludicrous” level. 

42,000! Will We Even Be Able To See The Stars?

As I wrote earlier, there is no guarantee that Starlink will ever get that big. In the grand scheme, Musk’s vision is to provide ultra-reliable high-speed internet across the globe. And he wants to do it without relying on the pesky undersea cables that currently connect the eastern and western hemispheres online. In that spirit, more satellites will definitely increase speed and reliability. So if SpaceX’s goal is to provide the highest quality product, then 12,000 satellites might make sense. 42,000 does seem a bit like overkill though.

Here’s Musk talking about Starlink last year:

On the other hand, if Musk can make the thing work with a thousand satellites, what incentive does he – as a capitalist – have to increase the size of the constellation? Without any real competition at the moment, the answer is none.

For now, the request to the ITU is a preliminary step. If the ITU approves the request, SpaceX’s next step would be to apply for permission from the FCC, which handles civilian commercial satellites for the U.S.

Current Status

There are already sixty Starlink satellites in orbit. The final number remains to be seen, however. Musk may decide (or be regulated) to limit his constellation, but there are other space and communications companies planning their own constellations as well. These include Amazon and OneWeb. One way or another, then, space is going to get a whole lot more crowded soon.

Read More:


Can’t get enough Space Porn? It’s not a problem, despite what all of those prudes say! Show them all you love space by sporting some merch from our Marketplace, or by becoming a patron. The merch and the perks are awesome!

Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *