How SpaceX plans to bring speedy broadband to the whole world

23 February 2018


After a third delay, Thursday is now the day SpaceX plans to launch two small prototype satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, the beginning of what Elon Musk and his company hope will be a new way of connecting humanity.

The launch was initially planned for Saturday, but was delayed twice to allow additional time for systems check and a third time due to high-altitude winds on Wednesday.

Also along for the ride into orbit is the larger Paz telecommunications satellite, but all eyes are on the smaller satellites, named Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b.

The project has been relatively secret by SpaceX standards, but is currently known as Starlink and amounts to a new kind of satellite broadband internet service provider. Most other satellite internet services, like Viasat or HughesNet, rely on a handful of big satellites in geostationary orbit, over 22,000 miles (35,000 kilometers) above Earth.

Signals and data travel back and forth between those satellites and customers' satellite dishes, as well as larger ground stations on Earth, to bring the internet into the homes of hundreds of thousands of customers, often in rural locations with few other options.

Traveling all those thousands of miles from high orbit can cause high levels of latency when using satellite internet, as anyone who's ever Skyped over such a connection will tell you. Things like real-time video calls and gaming can become difficult when there's lag and delay in the line from data having to travel to space and back over and over again.

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