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11.26.20
First Go

Elon Musk Says the Starlink Network Will Go Live in Six Months

__Dan Robitzski__Filed Under: Hard Science
SpaceX

Test Run

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday that the company’s Starlink satellite network will come online for a public beta in about six months.

The network will still be incomplete — Business Insider reports that SpaceX hopes to launch thousands more satellites in the coming years. But the beta will be the first attempt to test out whether Starlink can reliably beam internet service down from space. If it works, it could help improve access to broadband and close the digital divide that’s only become more of a problem since people started isolating at home.

Crowded Sky

Starlink has remained controversial among scientists who are worried that launching tens of thousands of satellites could prevent astronomers from conducting research — or even become a minefield for spacecraft trying to leave the planet.

But SpaceX has made efforts to assuage those concerns by changing the altitude at which the satellites orbit and apply coatings that make them appear dimmer from the ground.

Digital Divide

SpaceX has currently launched just 420 — get it? — of its Starlink satellites into orbit, but plans to have 12,000 up within the decade, Business Insider reports.

Because of that limited scale, the beta tests will only deliver broadband access to some parts of the world, according to Musk’s tweet. But no matter how well the test goes, it will still be a far cry from how the full network is expected to perform down the road.

READ MORE: Elon Musk announces that early access to the Starlink satellite-internet project will launch this year [Business Insider]

More on Starlink: Ominous Video Shows SpaceX Satellites Cutting Across Sky