SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has revealed that the company’s Starlink satellite Internet service will enter private beta testing in roughly three months.
Starlink aims to provide high-speed Internet across the globe through a mega-constellation of small satellites.
The service will focus on supporting remote areas where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.
The company previously indicated it was targeting service in Canada and the northern parts of the US in 2020, with plans to expand to near-global coverage of the populated world by 2021.
Musk’s reveal of the beta schedule came in a tweet to a user asking whether plans for Starlink were still on course.
He also said that the Starlink public beta would begin in around six months and that the service will focus on high-latitude areas.
Private beta begins in ~3 months, public beta in ~6 months, starting with high latitudes
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 23, 2020
Starlink’s satellites will provide gigabit Internet speeds and latency between 25ms and 35ms, according to a filing made with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in 2016.
In May 2019, Musk claimed that latency could be brought down to 10ms over time.
Each Starlink satellite weighs approximately 260kg and comes with a compact, flat-panel design that minimises the amount of volume it takes up.
This has allowed SpaceX to launch dense stacks of the satellites on its Falcon 9 rocket over the last two years. To date, 422 of the satellites have been launched.
Phase 1 of the programme will see a total of 1,584 satellites launched into orbit at 550km above earth’s surface.
Lines consisting of 22 satellites will travel along 72 orbital paths to beam Internet connectivity to Earth.
Issues over night-sky visibility
Astronomers and stargazers are worried about the effects that thousands of small satellites like Starlink’s will have on night-sky visibility.
This has been a hot topic in recent days, with observers in Europe pointing out that they could clearly see Starlink’s satellites that were launched in March moving across the sky at twilight.
However, Musk has stated that this brightness will change in the coming days as the panel angles are adjusted and the satellites climb higher to reach their operational orbit.
The brightness was supposedly caused by the Sun reflecting off of the solar panels towards observers on earth.