SpaceX’s Starlink public internet service beta could be close at hand, Elon Musk has confirmed, assuming successful deployment of the space company’s newest satellites. The Falcon 9 launch this morning began a several-times delayed mission, with 60 new Starlink satellites set to join the constellation as well as another demonstration of SpaceX’s reusable rocket tech.
Originally, the mission – Starlink’s 13th launch – had been expected to blast off on September 17. A recovery issue scrubbed that launch, and then weather prevented the second attempt. SpaceX rescheduled it again for the start of October, only for technical issues to crop up again.
Today, though, things have gone pretty much as clockwork. The Falcon 9 lifted off at 7:30am ET from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, SpaceX confirmed, and shortly after Falcon 9’s first stage safely landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship. That makes the fourth successful mission for the booster, SpaceX further demonstrating how its reusable tech can make launches more cost-effective and less wasteful.
Meanwhile, the fairing half was also captured safely shortly after that. It has flown in two previous missions.
The big question was whether the sixty Starlink satellite payload would successful deploy, which SpaceX confirmed happened according to plan at 8:33am ET. They’ll then move to join the rest of the constellation, which Starlink uses to deliver low-latency internet connections to users on the ground.
Of course, actually getting access to that network hasn’t exactly been easy so far. Starlink’s closed beta has been underway for some time now, with the first speed test results looking more than promising in comparison to traditional, terrestrial broadband. The company has been cautious in rolling out access with only partial coverage, however.
That looks to be changing with this successful mission. “Once these satellites reach their target position,” Elon Musk tweeted, “we will be able to roll out a fairly wide public beta in northern US & hopefully southern Canada. Other countries to follow as soon as we receive regulatory approval.”
Starlink users have a small satellite dish which is able to automatically configure itself and adjust through the day to keep the constellation properly lined-up. It’s connected via a cable to a router, which is responsible for sharing the internet access with other devices. That portability makes it usually flexible, with SpaceX having given first responders fighting forest fires in the US access to the network so as to keep them online even as infrastructure burned.