SpaceX to Press Ahead With Starlink Tests, Delays Commercial Service

Science

SpaceX will continue beta testing its satellite-based broadband service Starlink into next year, the company said late Tuesday, indicating commercial service would not likely be offered in 2020 as previously planned.

Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, Elon Musk’s private space exploration company, has 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 colonise 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 livestream on Tuesday, before launching the company’s 16th batch of Starlink satellites.

A SpaceX spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

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 (roughly Rs. 36,900) setup kit and pay $99 (roughly Rs. 7,300) per-month for Internet service.

In filings with the US 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. 

© Thomson Reuters 2020


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