SpaceX to Test Internet Service Satellites: Analysis

Written by Larry Press

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is testing Internet service satellites. Here’s the scoop from Larry Press.

aNewDomain— Like you, we’ve kept an eye on Elon Musk’s and Greg Wyler’s ventures to launch a global Internet service through constellations of low-earth-orbit satellites that will provide quick long-distance links.

Both plans are a few years from full-functioning operation, but SpaceX, led by Musk, filed an application to launch two test satellites, which means they are ready to get started. Reddit has a thread of satellite experts discussing the news.

elon musk tweet

The Application

The submitted application requests permission to launch two identical Ku-band downlink satellites, possibly built in the form-factor of CubeSats. The satellites, if approved, will be built with an expected lifetime of six to 12 months and orbit at 625 kilometers.

According to the application, the launch objective is to:

To validate the design of a broadband antenna communications platform (primary payload) that will lead to the final LEO constellation design using three broadband array test ground stations positioned along the western coast of the US.”

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The project will include broadband array testing, utilizing a network of site-specific broadband test ground locations: SpaceX Headquarters in Hawthorn, Calif., SpaceX Washington in Redmond, Wash. and Tesla Motors Headquarters in Fremont, Calif.

It certainly helps to own multiple companies.

Each location will have two types of ground terminal for evaluation.

Hopefully these tests will culminate in a revised, and possibly final, version of the SpaceX ground stations and satellites. It’s still unclear how soon the project might be ready to deploy, but SpaceX is the first out of the gate in the satellite constellation Internet service race.

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All Screenshots: Larry Press