Musk Reads: SpaceX Starlink public beta coming soon

SpaceX halts two launches and Crew Dragon gets a packed schedule. What about Vantablack Starlink satellites?

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SpaceX halts two launches and Crew Dragon gets a packed schedule. What about Vantablack Starlink satellites? It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #207.

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Musk quote of the week

“We will need to make a lot of improvements to have a chance of completing 48 launches next year!”


SpaceX was forced to delay two launches that were scheduled to lift off over the past four days. The first, scheduled for 9:43 p.m. Eastern time on October 2, would have sent up the fourth GPS-III satellite for the United States Air Force. SpaceX delayed the launch with just two seconds to go, which Musk later claimed was due to an “unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator.” A second launch would have sent up the 13th batch of Starlink satellites at 7:51 a.m. on October 5, but the team had to stand down due to “weather violations on the range.”

Although the latest batch of Starlink satellites has yet to launch, Musk last week declared that a public beta of the high-speed internet service would launch “very soon.” The initial rollout would target people at high latitudes, “like Seattle.” This is almost exactly when the public beta service was expected to roll out, as Musk suggested in April it would arrive in October. Further details are unclear, but leaked private beta documents showed the company targeted American and Canadian users between 44 and 52 degrees latitude. Musk offered no further details about how to sign up, but Starlink’s website allows interested people to submit their email and physical address for further updates. Read more.

What’s next for SpaceX: SpaceX is set to launch the 13th batch of Starlink satellites at 7:29 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday. The mission is set to lift off from Space Launch Complex 39A at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

In other Musk news…

  • Waiting for a SpaceX Starlink IPO? Good news: Musk suggested this week the company would “probably” do an initial public offering for its internet service, but only “several years in the future when revenue growth is smooth & predictable.” The move would enable the general public to invest in Starlink, something not currently possible with SpaceX. Read more.
  • SpaceX and NASA have a busy 12 months planned for Crew Dragon. Its first non-test crewed flight is expected on October 31, the first flight to send up a non-NASA astronaut. The second is expected in spring 2021 and the third in September 2021. Read more.
  • SpaceX’s Starship is expected to make an appearance at an event in three weeks. The event looks set to continue Musk’s tradition of holding an annual event that updates the public on SpaceX’s plans to get to Mars. Read more.
  • How much do you know about Starship? Test your knowledge with our quiz. Read more.

Musk Reads mailroom

Gregory Szabo writes:

If you ever had DirecTV or Dish, you know the moment the news channel announces bad weather they stop working. How will Starlink get around this problem?

Good question, and one that Toronto-based telecoms consultant Michael James Martin explored in a blog post last month. Unfortunately, it seems Starlink will use the Ku, Ka, and V bands, and they do suffer in rainy conditions. The question is how much the signal will deteriorate. With the right techniques, the SpaceX-operated gateways used to connect the satellites to the rest of the internet can reduce the effects of rain. Certain techniques can reduce the effects by up to 95 percent. Martin concludes that, while the signals will struggle against weather conditions, it will be interesting to see what sort of ideas SpaceX has to overcome these issues.

Dave Cowen writes:

Why not use an ultra dark coating like Vantablack on the Starlink satellites? I know SpaceX has mentioned some coatings to reduce reflectiveness, but that combined with Vantablack might do the trick. It seems like this might go a long way toward solving issues with the satellites messing up ground-based astronomy.

One issue with painting a satellite as black as possible is heat. Patrick Seitzer, an astronomer at the University of Michigan, explained to The Guardian in November 2019 that if you paint the satellite black, it will absorb light from the Sun instead of reflecting it. That could damage the electronics.

Having said that, maybe Musk could take some inspiration from BMW’s 2020 X6. Vantablack Tesla, anyone?

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Photo of the week

Starship SN9 takes shape.

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The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #207, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.

What did you think of today’s stories? Hit reply to this email to let us know. Thanks for reading!

A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

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