SpaceX has successfully launched the latest set of its Starling satellites.
Sunday’s launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, brings the total number of Starling satellites in low Earth orbit to more than 800, creating a galaxy large enough to push the high-speed Internet down to Earth.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, says the company will send tens of thousands of Starling satellites into low Earth orbit over the next few years, creating a network capable of broadband illumination for more than 99 percent of the population.
“Unlimited global network with higher performance and ground infrastructure limits than traditional satellite internet, Starling access will provide high speed broadband internet to places that are unreliable, expensive or completely unavailable,” the company’s website says.
The network already exists directly in parts of Canada and North America, where a limited number of users have tested it.
Emergency responders in the state of Washington set up a free WiFi hotspot for residents of Malton using the Starling network, which was largely destroyed by wildfires in September.
Earlier this month, Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, said a broader public beta would be possible following its launch in October.
“Once these satellites reach their target level, we will be able to build a much wider public beta in North America and South Canada,” he said. Tweeted. “Once we get the regulatory approval, other countries will have to follow suit.”
The possibility of thousands of Starling satellites entering low Earth orbit has prompted warnings from some astronomers that their presence could hamper observations and slow down scientific progress.
SpaceX is currently working with laboratories and astronomical systems to find ways to reduce the impact of satellites. Possible solutions include painting the base of the satellites black and tilting the solar panels to reduce the sun’s reflection.
In August, hundreds of astronomers put their names behind the report of the Satellite Constellations 1 (SATCON 1) workshop, stating that “the effects of satellite orbits on the scientific projects of the next generation will not be completely avoided by any mitigation.”
As the next Starling release is scheduled for October 21st, concerns have not diminished Starling’s release.