Elon Musk sent out first tweets via SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet

The Starlink satellites will operate together to form a network to provide broadband internet globally.

While SpaceX is preparing to successfully deploy its network of Starlink satellites to beam down broadband connectivity to the most remote areas on Earth, Elon Musk is having fun with the under-construction network.

Elon Musk, founder, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX and Founder of the Boring Company. Reuters.

Elon Musk, founder, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX and Founder of the Boring Company. Reuters.

Using the near-earth routers of the satellite network, Musk wanted to test whether he could tweet from it. “Sending this tweet through space via Starlink satellite,” he tweeted, followed by “Whoa, it worked!!” in surprise that it actually worked.

With the Starlink satellites, SpaceX aims to launch a constellation network to give internet coverage from space. In its first phase, 60 satellites were launched in May on board the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. It plans to launch 12,000 internet-providing satellites in the future. After a successful launch, the company announced that it was planning to quadruple the number of satellites which means adding 30,000 more satellites.

Once up and running, satellite internet can provide access to a much wider range of people than today's fibre and cable-based networks can. One of the only disadvantages for widespread use is latency: satellite systems have a latency of 638 milliseconds, which is roughly 20 times slower than wired. Data can be downloaded on these high-latency networks at similar speeds to regular connections, but response times for gaming and other reaction-sensitive uses could be disappointing, according to an Ars Technica report.

There are many satellite internet projects competing with SpaceX's Starlink. Satellite internet firm OneWeb and satellite operator Kepler Communications have work underway on their own constellations and have also filed against Starlink, claiming that it could cause signal interference at the lower elevation and potentially even pose a collision risk. When the FCC approved the project, it found that "the modification proposed by SpaceX does not present significant interference problems and is in the public interest." That's promising.

Beaming down internet from satellites sounds like a terrific idea with a lot of perks, but numerous other companies have run into problems with similar projects. Facebook's Project Athena, after failing to get its drones to work properly, turned to satellites with the aim of launching an internet constellation by early 2019 which the company hasn't yet.

Similarly, Google is working on Project Loon, which aims to provide 4G internet (LTE) to remote regions of the world using hot air balloons. It, too, has run into numerous obstacles, a major patent lawsuit among them. Amazon, too, has also announced Project Kuiper, its own project for satellite internet services.

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