Innovation

Musk Reads: Starship floating spaceports will go to Mars

Starship could send up Starlink and NASA's two astronauts are set to return soon. What is happening with Starlink version 2?

Starship could send up Starlink and NASA’s two astronauts are set to return soon. What is happening with Starlink version 2? It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #179.

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

Musk quote of the week

“SpaceX is building floating, superheavy-class spaceports for Mars, moon & hypersonic travel around Earth.”

SpaceX Starship

Ready to travel around the world in less than an hour? SpaceX has posted a job listing for an offshore operations engineer in Brownsville, Texas. The candidate would be tasked with designing and building an offshore rocket launch facility. Musk confirmed via Twitter that the firm is “building floating, superheavy-class spaceports for Mars, moon & hypersonic travel around Earth.” Musk has previously suggested these spaceports would be around 20 miles away from the shore to avoid noise issues. Read more.

Beyond missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, SpaceX is also planning to use Starship for missions currently served by the Falcon 9. A visualization shared last week showed how the Starship would look launching 240 satellites at once, four times more than currently launched in each mission. SpaceX’s internet connectivity constellation is designed to offer high speed and low latency internet, and the firm has applied for permission to send up 42,000 craft. Read more.

In other SpaceX news…

  • More than 100 spacecraft have registered to fly in SpaceX’s satellite ridesharing program. Read more.
  • The Crew Dragon Demo–2 astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, are expected to return from the International Space Station around early August, space reporter Emre Kelly writes.
  • SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell sent a company email Friday, seen by CNBC, about Juneteenth.
  • SpaceX has applied for a license to offer Starlink services in Canada, CBC reports.

What’s next for SpaceX: SpaceX is expected to launch the 10th batch of Starlink satellites on June 25 from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at an as-yet undetermined time. The mission will also send up two BlackSky satellites as part of its ridesharing program. Read more.

Musk Reads mailroom

Adam Shore writes:

Having had a fair bit of experience searching for satellites in remote locations in order to communicate I totally support the effort to get the web up high. We managed to Skype from the North Pole once! Was very patchy but it worked…would be so much better if there we more convenient sats. I totally support the effort to bring internet to all on the globe via satellite. Awesome. It will save lives, bring education to remote areas, allow folks to find support, advice, networks and collaborators etc etc etc, and bring more economic opportunity to those that need it most. Brilliant.

My question is - why can’t the same thing be achieved by far far fewer but more powerful tools placed far further away i.e. at Lagrange points that cover the globe? I assume there is a good reason otherwise it would have been done. I hope that reason is technical rather than financial. Hundreds of thousands (the number will grow and grow as the tech pays off) of little tiny comm sats netting the world intuitively seems a bit messy. They will all end up settling into the atmosphere at some point after all, passing tiny doses of nasty forever chemicals into the environment. And then there is the complaints from astronomers etc. Is this a stepping stone to a more elegant solution?

Starlink could offer a solution for high-speed, low-latency internet access – perhaps one that could help on your next North Pole expedition! SpaceX claims it can deliver on this promise precisely because there are so many satellites in the sky. The craft orbits at 550 kilometers above the surface, far lower than other constellations. That means the distance from the ground to the satellite is reduced, which means it can deliver latencies low enough for video games, SpaceX claims. The FCC has its doubts, though.

Unfortunately, Musk’s plans for the second generation seems to bring the satellites even lower to offer latencies as fast as eight milliseconds. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell has claimed that having 30,000 satellites in the sky is not a big problem, as an Earth with 30,000 people on it would be sparsely populated. The ongoing discussions with astronomers, which seek to mitigate the worst effects of Starlink, could help shape something that looks like a more elegant solution for the long term.

Peter Fuchs writes:

[Regarding people on Mars,] in the near future it’s surely hard for people to come back to Earth, not impossible though and surely in the future. All what’s needed is to change genes, if it works as it should, changing that, looks, sex is as easy as button push. Of course there are obvious ups but also downs even with matured technology as seen in Seikai Trilogy or Stargate.

Solomon argued in his interview with Inverse that CRISPR/Cas9 could help accelerate the speed at which genes change for generations living in the Mars city. But a sterilization system, where everything that moves between the two planets is checked to avoid contamination, could be the most realistic short-term solution before humans perfect something more imaginative.

Got any comments or queries? Don’t forget to send them over to muskreads@inverse.com.

Photo of the week

Starlink satellites from the first, second, and third batch launches visualized by Reddit user “TheVehicleDestroyer”:

Got any photos or videos you’d like to share? Feel free to send them over to muskreads@inverse.com.

The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #179, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.

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

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