What could potentially be one of the most profitable activities for SpaceX is to sell broadband Internet access to people around the globe courtesy of its Starlink satellite system. Currently, the system is in beta tests in the United States, and SpaceX has a launch scheduled for tonight that will put the 16th batch of satellites in orbit. The launch is currently planned for 9:56 PM in Florida and is currently listed as having a 70 percent chance for “go.”
There is a chance that high winds at liftoff could be an issue potentially delaying the launch. The mission intends to put 60 additional Starlink satellites into orbit, bringing the number to almost 1000. The Starlink broadband Internet service is currently in some areas of the United States right now. Early beta testers pay $499 for equipment, and then the monthly service costs $99 per month.
SpaceX has warned the beta testers that there will be periodic outages and that they can expect speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps. Having watched several videos beta testers have posted to YouTube, those quoted speeds appear accurate. The Starlink system also appears to be easy to set up and use.
The beta program is called “Starlink’s Better Than Nothing Beta.” SpaceX intends to use the money made from selling access to its broadband service to help fund future trips to the moon and Mars. So far, the company has launched 15 Starlink missions putting enough satellites in orbit to make SpaceX the largest satellite operator by volume as of November.
There has been significant interest in the broadband service since it would allow people anywhere on Earth to connect at broadband speeds once the network is fully deployed. First responders, the DOD, and many other parties are interested in the service once it’s available. If all goes well for today’s launch, the Falcon 9 first stage is expected to land on a drone ship in the ocean.