(Watch) SpaceX's Rocket Launch Today Is the Beginning of Worldwide Internet

Thursday, 22 February 2018 - 10:14AM
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Thursday, 22 February 2018 - 10:14AM
(Watch) SpaceX's Rocket Launch Today Is the Beginning of Worldwide Internet
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Image credit: SpaceX/YouTube screenshot
Elon Musk catches a lot of flak for antics like selling novelty flamethrowers and launching a luxury car into space because he can, but SpaceX's Falcon launch today reminds us that Musk isn't just a Silicon Valley Bond villain with money to burn. In addition to launching the Spanish Paz satellite, today's payload includes two experimental satellites that will test out SpaceX's proposed Starlink satellite project, which aims to give broadband internet to people all over the world.

If you missed the launch today, watch the video here:



According to Business Insider, Starlink will consist of around 12,000 low-Earth orbit satellites once it's complete. (Low orbit is considered to be anything between 684-823 miles above Earth.) Neither Musk nor SpaceX has given the project a lot of public exposure, but documents revealed through the FCC application process have shown that Musk won their approval to test the system. Today's launch will put "Microsat-2a" and "Microsat-2b" into orbit and take the next step in making Starlink a reality.

The goal behind Starlink is to solve two problems simultaneously: bringing the internet to places that don't have it, and make sure it's fast.

According to the Washington Post, about 60% of the world's population lives without internet access; the majority of those people live in just 20 countries. On top of that, many rural areas in developed countries still have limited options for internet access. Starlink aims to fix this with its massive network of satellites. When completed, it will total more satellites than have ever been launched in history.

The low orbits solve the second problem. Most satellite-based internet is plagued by high latency, which causes lag. This is usually because the satellites in question have high orbits, which means the data transmitted by one computer has to travel thousands of miles to the satellite, then all the way back down to the receiving computer. Though the lower orbits make the coverage area of individual satellites comparatively small, having a large number of them helps mitigate the problem while solving the problem of latency.

Bottom line? Faster internet for all.
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