SpaceX will continue beta testing its satellite-based broadband service Starlink into next year, the company said late Tuesday, indicating commercial service would be delayed and not likely be offered in 2020 as previously planned.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is the American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars.
In February 2020, the company had announced ambitious plans to fly private citizens into orbit on Crew Dragon. The Crew Dragon vehicle would launch from LC-39A with up to four tourists on board, and spend up to five days in a low- earth orbit with an apogee of over 1,000 km (620 mi).
On 3 September, the firm launched its 12th batch of satellites from Cape Canaveral in Florida and released some early information about the satellite constellation’s capabilities.
It has to date launched nearly 900 Starlink satellites to orbit since 2019 with the goal of offering high-speed Internet to rural locations globally.
Musk has said the Starlink service will be a crucial source of funding for his broader plans, like developing the super heavy-lift Starship rocket to fly paying customers to the moon and eventually trying to colonize Mars.
“At our current pace, we expect to expand our beta in a notable way very early next year, in the late January – February timeframe,” SpaceX engineer Kate Tice said during a live stream on Tuesday, before launching the company’s 16th batch of Starlink satellites.
SpaceX in October invited hundreds of people in rural states like Washington, Wisconsin, and Idaho to partake in its “Better Than Nothing Beta” trial, opening the door to those who signed up to buy and test the company’s $499 setup kit and pay $99 per month for internet service.
In filings with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, the company had anticipated offering commercial service by the end of 2020, then “rapidly expand to near-global coverage of the populated world in 2021.”
In November, SpaceX got approval from Canadian authorities to start beta testing Starlink in the country, enabling a “fairly wide public beta” in southern Canada.
On May 26, 2020, the NASA’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, stated that: “Because of the investments that NASA has made into SpaceX we now have, the United States of America now has about 70 percent of the commercial launch market, . . . That is a big change from 2012 when we had exactly zero percent.”
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