A few weeks after the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, Elon Musk’s aerospace company is tackling another lofty venture, as it begins its long-discussed plan to build an internet service provider in space.
On Thursday morning, the firm launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. The payload contained three satellites, two of which were a demonstration of Musk’s internet-beaming [Starlink satellites](top.
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The duo, which Musk has dubbed Tintin A and B, were successfully deployed and have been in communication with stations on Earth. Next up, the satellites will attempt to establish a wireless internet connection and send out a test message once they pass over Los Angeles at around 9 a.m. Pacific time on Friday morning.
This is the first step of a much wider plan to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit to provide broadband connection to swaths of the world, an idea that even Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai has gotten behind.
Tintin A and B are not going to be permanent parts of the satellite array. They are merely an experiment to see if SpaceX’s idea could actually work. Both crafts are designed to stop functioning after a 20-month period.
Back in May 2017, SpaceX outlined its goals for the Starlink constellation to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology. During the meeting, the firm highlighted that satellites can be a far more effective way of providing connectivity as they don’t depend on ground-based infrastructure.
While Pai has urged his colleagues to approve the rest of this plan, a successfully sent message would push his point further and make approval even more likely.
Tintin A and B will either be remembered as the first beacon of a new era of Internet connectivity or as floating hunks of metal in orbit. Only time will tell which one rings true.