Over the next 18 months, SpaceX plans to increase the number of Starlink satellites in orbit, allowing more people to subscribe to the satellite internet service.
On Monday, CEO Elon Musk tweeted about the aim. “Expecting over 4200 Starlink satellites in operation within 18 months, which is 2/3 of all active satellites on Earth,” he added.
According to astronomer Jonathan McDowell, the number is essential since SpaceX has over 1,600 Starlink satellites in operation. Another 400 Starlink satellites are being launched into operational orbit.
All of these satellites were launched over a three-year period beginning in May of this year. Musk’s tweet indicates that the firm is now ready to speed Starlink’s construction utilising the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.
“SpaceX Falcon team is making excellent progress – aiming for 60 launches this year,” Musk added in a separate tweet.
The present Starlink network serves 250,000 Starlink subscribers worldwide. Thus, doubling the number of satellites should improve network coverage while also increasing internet speeds and latency. Users in the United States currently see download rates of 100Mbps, while internet quality varies.
However, additional satellite deployment will not solve all of Starlink’s challenges. Due to a chip shortfall that hampered the production of the Starlink dishes required to connect to the network, SpaceX had to reschedule several order requests in October. Moreover, the company raised Starlink prices earlier this month, claiming inflation.
For the time being, SpaceX has only been granted a licence to operate 4,408 Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbits of roughly 550 kilometres by the US Federal Communications Commission. The firm actively seeks regulatory clearance for a second-generation Starlink network with almost 30,000 satellites. These satellites will be launched by SpaceX’s next Starship rocket.