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GeekWire: SpaceX to launch prototype Starlink satellites for global internet

15 February 2018

San Francisco: SpaceX will be launching a satellite for low-priced internet across the globe on February 17 this year, said media reports. The Microsat 2a and 2b satellites will reportedly be included as secondary payloads on the company's next Falcon 9 launch.

The SpaceX rocket will lift the PAZ satellite for Hisdesat of Madrid, Spain.

SpaceX follows other companies such as OneWeb and Telesat entering the market for broadband services, targeting remote and rural areas where fixed and mobile broadband coverage is poor. If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies.

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According to documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the company will have a variety of ground stations to test the network including at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California; Tesla's headquarters in Fremont, California; SpaceX's facilities in McGregor and Brownsville in Texas, as well as in Redmond, Washington; and lastly, three transport vans, perhaps to test the network's reliability in moving vehicles.

SpaceX's customers include commercial satellite operators, the USA space agency NASA and the US military.

17 Feb first satellites will launch the Falcon 9 rocket. Though that first launch slipped by two months, OneWeb plans to begin service a year or two ahead of SpaceX and Telesat. Further satellites will be launched in phases, with SpaceX intending to reach full capacity with 4,425 satellites in 2024.

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In between the talks of slinging cars into a solar orbit and building spaceships that induce profanity, one can often forget that Elon Musk's SpaceX also plans to do things a bit closer to home. Overall, 73% of Americans say they have a broadband connection at home, but only two-thirds (63%) of rural Americans do, according to a May 2017 Pew Research Center survey.

"We're going to try to do for satellites what we've done for rockets" said Musk during an interview with Bloomberg TV in January 2015. "So we need things that will generate a lot of money". The Hawthorne, California-based company now flies the Falcon 9 rocket, and last week it launched the Falcon Heavy, the world's most powerful rocket in 45 years, then flew two of its spent boosters back to the Florida coast for a spectacular, simultaneous recovery on land.

Competitor Telesat, which operates a fleet of 15 geostationary telecommunications satellites today, has yet to select a manufacturer for its 117-satellite LEO internet constellation. The project is informally known as Starlink.

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In addition to the satellite, the team transported the electrical and mechanical ground support equipment plus all the testing and conditioning devices needed to prepare the satellite for the final leg of its journey to space.

GeekWire: SpaceX to launch prototype Starlink satellites for global internet