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SpaceX launches 5 dozen small satellites for Starlink internet service

Musk said Starlink is pivotal in helping pay for his larger goals of developing a new spacecraft to fly paying customers to the moon and for eventually trying to colonize Mars.

Joey Roulette | Reuters  |  CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. 

Elon Musk
Tesla founder Elon Musk.

High-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company launched a 9 rocket from on Thursday on a mission to carry the first batch of five dozen small satellites into low-Earth orbit for his new internet service.

The rocket blasted off from at about 10:30 p.m. local time (0230 GMT Friday), marking a milestone in a global enterprise aimed at generating cash for Musk’s larger ambitions in space.

The launch came a week after two back-to-back countdowns for the mission were scrubbed - once due to high winds over the Cape and the next night in order to update software and “triple-check” all systems.

The 9 was due to release its cargo of 60 satellites into orbit about an hour after Thursday’s launch. Each one weighs 500 pounds (227 kg), making it the heaviest payload for any rocket to date.

Those satellites are designed to form the initial phase a planned constellation capable of beaming signals for from space to paying customers around the globe.

Musk has said he sees the new venture as an important new revenue stream for his California-based Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, whose launch service income he expects to top out at around $3 billion a year.

Speaking to reporters last week, Musk said that makes pivotal in helping pay for his larger goals of developing a new to fly paying customers to the moon and for eventually trying to colonize Mars.

“We think this is a key stepping stone on the way towards establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon,” said Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who is also chief executive officer of automaker Tesla Inc.

At least 12 launches carrying similar payloads are needed to achieve constant internet coverage of most of the world, Musk said. Starlink is only currently authorized for operations in the

Musk faces stiff competition. In February, Airbus SE-backed launched its own clutch of satellites, while and Canada’s are also working to build data networks.

In each network, the tiny satellites orbit closer to Earth than traditional communications satellites, a technological shift made possible by advances in and computer chips.

Musk said would begin approaching customers later this year or next year. As many as 2,000 satellites will be launched per year, with the ultimate objective of placing up to 12,000 into orbit.

First Published: Fri, May 24 2019. 09:17 IST
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