Elon Musk became the world’s richest person this month by upending the global auto industry and disrupting aerospace heavyweights with reusable rockets. Now he’s setting his sights on another business dominated by entrenched incumbents: telecommunications.
Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has launched more than 1,000 satellites for its Starlink internet service and is signing up early customers in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. SpaceX has told investors that Starlink is angling for a piece of a $1 trillion market made up of in-flight internet, maritime services, demand in China and India — and rural customers such as Brian Rendel.
Rendel became a Starlink tester in November after struggling for years with sluggish internet speeds at his 160-acre farm overlooking Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After he paid about $500 for the equipment, FedEx arrived with a flat dish and antenna. For $99 a month, Rendel is now getting speeds of 100 megabytes per second for downloads and 15 to 20 for uploads — far faster, he says, than his previous internet provider.
“This is a game changer,” said Rendel, a mental health counselor, who can now easily watch movies and hold meetings with clients over Zoom. “It makes me feel like I’m part of civilization again.”
For months, SpaceX has been launching Starlink satellites on its Falcon 9 rockets in batches of 60 at a time, and the 17th Starlink launch was on Jan. 20. There are now roughly 960 functioning satellites in orbit, heralding an age of mega-constellations that have prompted worries about visual pollution for astronomers.
But the Starlink array in low-Earth orbit, closer to the planet than traditional satellites, is enough to enable SpaceX to roll out service along a wide swath of North America and the U.K. As SpaceX sends up more satellites, the coverage area will grow, expanding the potential customer base — and revenue stream — beyond the initial stages of today.
SpaceX didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“The big deal is that people are happy with the service and the economics of Starlink versus other alternatives,” said Luigi Peluso, managing director with Alvarez & Marsal, who follows the aerospace and defense industries. “SpaceX has demonstrated the viability of their solution.”
Last year, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said that Starlink is a business that SpaceX– one of the most richly valued venture-backed companies in the U.S. — is likely to spin out and take public. That dangles the possibility of another Musk enterprise offering shares after last year’s sensational stock-market gains by Tesla Inc.
Starlink will face plenty of competition. While fiber optic cable is widely considered too expensive to lay down in remote regions and many rural locations, cellular connectivity is expected to make big advances with 5G and then 6G. Meanwhile, a number of innovative attempts to extend cellular to unserved areas are being developed by other well-heeled companies such as Facebook Inc.
“There will always be early Starlink adopters who think that anything from Elon Musk is cool,” said John Byrne, a telecom analyst at GlobalData. “But it’s hard to see the satellite trajectory keeping pace with the improvements coming with cellular.”
SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, is primarily known for launching rockets for global satellite operators, the U.S. military, and NASA. Last year, SpaceX made history by becoming the first private company to fly astronauts to the International Space Station.
Starlink marks SpaceX’s first foray into a truly consumer-facing product. Maintaining strong service while growing the customer base is something SpaceX has never tried before.
“Like any network, Starlink is going to enjoy rave reviews while it is underutilized,” said industry analyst Jim Patterson. “However, it will be challenged with the same congestion issues as their peers as they grow their base.”
Then again, SpaceX says the service will improve as it builds out more infrastructure.
“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will all improve dramatically,” Kate Tice, a senior engineer at SpaceX, said in a livestream of a Starlink mission in November.
Starlink is gearing up for a big 2021, hiring software engineers, customer support managers, a director of sales, and a country launch manager.
The fan fervor that made Tesla cars such a hit with consumers and retail investors extends to Starlink. Facebook groups, Reddit threads and Twitter are filled with reports from early customers sharing images of their download speeds. You Tube has videos of people “unboxing” their Starlink dish and going through the initial set-up.
Ross Youngblood lives in Oregon and works remotely as an engineer for a tech company in San Jose. He owns a Tesla Model X and follows All Things Musk pretty closely. He got Starlink before Thanksgiving.
“I just plugged it all in and it started to work,” said Youngblood. “It’s going to be very disruptive, and I don’t think enough people are paying attention.”
Many other customers are waiting in the wings. In December, the Federal Communications Commission awarded SpaceX $885.5 million in subsidies as part of a wider effort to bring broadband to over 10 million Americans in rural areas. SpaceX will focus on 35 states, including Alabama, Idaho, Montana and Washington.
“We can’t continue to throw money at aging infrastructure,” said Russ Elliot, director of the Washington State Broadband Office. “With Starlink, you can be anywhere. The cost to build in deep rural or costly areas is now less of an issue with this technology as an option.”
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Elliot connected SpaceX with members of the Hoh Tribe in far western Washington. The Native American community had struggled for years to bring high-speed internet to their remote reservation, which spans about 1,000 acres and has 23 homes. Kids struggled to access remote learning, and internet connections were so slow that downloading homework could take all day.
“SpaceX came up and just catapulted us into the 21st century,” said Melvinjohn Ashue, a member of the Hoh Tribe, in a short video produced by the Washington State Department of Commerce.
In a phone interview, Ashue said that the first thing he did once he connected to Starlink was download a long movie: Jurassic Park. Now most of the reservation’s households have Starlink, making it possible for families to access not just online schooling but tele-health appointments and online meetings.
“Internet access is a utility. It’s no longer a luxury,” said Maria Lopez, the tribal vice chairwoman. Lopez said that Starlink was easy to hook up. The scariest part was climbing up a ladder to set up the dish on her roof.
“Every now and then it will glitch,” she said. “But it quickly reboots itself.”
–With assistance from Sanjit Das.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
Check Out This Amazing HD Panorama Of Mars From NASA’s Perseverance Rover – Forbes
The verdict is in – and NASA’s Perseverance rover is a hit.
Having touched down on Mars in the Jezero Crater last week on Thursday, February 18, this plucky robotic explorer has captured the hearts and minds of the world.
Following its dramatic descent to the surface, complete with stunning first-of-its-kind footage, we also learned about a mysterious message in its parachute.
Now that the rover is on the surface, however, it is already busy getting to work, using its camera to take images of its surroundings.
And yesterday, Wednesday, February 24, NASA released the first 360-degree panorama from the rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument, situated at the top of the rover’s neck, called its mast.
You can view the image right here.
It was made using 142 images from the camera, revealed details on the crater rim and the nearby ancient river delta that Perseverance will study for signs of past life on Mars.
The image is zoomable, allowing you to take a detailed look at Perseverance’s immediate location on Mars, where it will spend another week or so.
The camera is able to see objects as small as 0.1 to 0.2 inches (3 to 5 millimeters) near the rover, and 6.5 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) in the distance.
This was the rover’s second panorama, after a previous one captured by its Navigation Cameras – or Navcams, also located on the Mast, said NASA.
But it was the first high-definition panorama from the rover, with Mastcam-Z having a higher resolution than the Navcams.
This allowed the rover to spot some intriguing features, such as a “wind-carved rock” located nearby that looked particularly interesting.
“We’re nestled right in a sweet spot, where you can see different features similar in many ways to features found by Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity at their landing sites,” Jim Bell from Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, the lead on the Mastcam-Z instrument, said in a statement.
The rover will continue running through some checks in the forthcoming days, perhaps taking its first drive relatively soon.
Then, in March, it will drive to a nearby location to deploy a helicopter on the surface, called Ingenuity, to perform the first attempt at flight on another world.
After that, the main science mission can begin, with the rover beginning its studies of the surface to look for evidence of fossilised Martian microbial life.
It’s a two-Earth-year mission that will also see the rover monitor the Martian weather, attempt to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, and look for water-ice under the surface.
So, for the time being, you can maybe forgive it for taking a moment to relax at its landing site and bask in its Martian surroundings.
Thankfully, we get to do the same thanks to its cameras. If you want to pore through more images from the rover, you can do so right here.
NASA confirms Perseverance rover has landed on Mars – Arab News
WASHINGTON DC: NASA said Thursday that the Perseverance rover has touched down on the surface of Mars after successfully overcoming a risky landing phase known as the “seven minutes of terror.”
“Touchdown confirmed,” said operations lead Swati Mohan at around 3:55 p.m. Eastern Time (2055 GMT) as mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory headquarters erupted in cheers.
The autonomously-guided procedure was completed more than 11 minutes earlier, which is how long it takes for radio signals to return to Earth.
“WOW!!” tweeted NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurburchen as he posted the Perseverance’s first black and white image from the Jezero Crater in Mars’ northern hemisphere.
The rover is only the fifth ever to set its wheels down on Mars. The feat was first accomplished in 1997 and all so far have been American.
About the size of an SUV, it weighs a ton, is equipped with a seven foot (two meter) long robotic arm, has 19 cameras, two microphones, and a suite of cutting-edge instruments to assist in its scientific goals.
Perseverance now embarks on a multi-year mission to search for the biosignatures of microbes that might have existed there billions of years ago, when conditions were warmer and wetter than they are today.
Starting from summer, it will attempt to collect 30 rock and soil samples in sealed tubes, to be eventually sent back to Earth sometime in the 2030s for lab analysis.
“The question of whether there’s life beyond Earth is one of the most fundamental and essential questions we can ask,” said NASA geologist Katie Stack Morgan.
“Our ability to ask this question and develop the scientific investigations and technology to answer it is one of the things that make us as a species so unique.”
NASA also wants to run several eye-catching experiments — including attempting the first powered flight on another planet, with a helicopter drone called Ingenuity that will have to achieve lift in an atmosphere that’s one percent the density of Earth’s.
Mars Messages: Why NASA’s ‘Secret Code’ In The Perseverance Rover’s Supersonic Parachute Is Just The Start – Forbes
NASA’s Perseverance rover landed safely on Mars on on February 18, 2021—and as it did so it displayed a special message.
In one of the most visually impactful parts of the incredible video of its dramatic landing on Mars was the unfurling of the rover’s red and orange parachute, which NASA has just revealed displays binary code that reads:
“Dare Mighty Things.”
What does that mean, where does it come from (clue: it was said by a politician in 1899)and why did NASA go to the trouble of sending a message to Mars?
The parachute’s code actually says more than just that three-word phrase—and on the rover is also a motto, 7 iconic images, 155 essays and 10.9 million names.
This is not the first time NASA has sent “secret” messages to Mars.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Why did Perseverance need a supersonic parachute?
NASA’s Perseverance rover got into the Martian atmosphere in a protective back shell that was equipped with a 70.5 feet/21.5 meters diameter parachute.
As it unfurled 7 miles/11 kilometers above Jezero Crater, to slowdown the spacecraft from 940 mph/1,512 kph, a parachute-up-look camera snapped some images.
What was written on Perseverance’s parachute?
Two messages were encoded in binary in an orange-and-white pattern on the parachute’s gores, one on the outer ring and one in a spiral on the inner ring:
Inner ring: “Dare Mighty Things,” with each word on its own ring of gores.
Outer ring: The GPS coordinates (34°11’58” N 118°10’31” W) for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where the rover was built and the project is managed.
Here’s the decoded version from NASA:
And here’s what the parachute was expected to look like. This image also gives you a better sense of scale of Perseverance’s supersonic parachute:
What ‘Dare Mighty Things’ means and why NASA encoded it on the parachute
“Dare Mighty Things” is the motto of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in La Cañada Flintridge, California, the center for the robotic exploration of the Solar System.
The phrase comes from a famous speech by Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, New York Governor, in Chicago on April 10, 1899 in which he argued that strenuous effort and overcoming hardship were what Americans must embrace:
“Thrice happy is the nation that has a glorious history. Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure … than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
The binary code pattern on the supersonic parachute was designed by Ian Clark, Mars 2020 Perseverance Systems Engineer at JPL.
More messages on Perseverance
It doesn’t stop there. To take accurate color on Mars, the rover’s wide-angle Mastcam-Z cameras need to calibrate, so on the rover’s deck is a pair of small color-reference targets. Called “cal targets” (pictured above) they help Perseverance’s camera system get the colors of Mars exactly right in photographs.
However, in between the color and grayscale patches are seven small icons:
- Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars orbiting the Sun.
- A DNA strand.
- Cyanobacteria (early microorganisms on Earth).
- A fern (symbolizing green plants).
- A dinosaur.
- Two waving humans (which recalls the plaques on NASA’s Pioneer and encoded on NASA’s Voyager Golden Records).
- A space rocket.
The cal target also has a motto, “Two Worlds, One Beginning.” NASA’s previous rover, Curiosity, has one that reads “To Mars To Explore” while its older Spirit and Opportunity rovers both had “Two Worlds, One Sun.”
So this is not the first time that NASA has baked-in coded messages to its Martian hardware.
Yet NASA’s most recent rover, Curiosity, has been leaving messages literally on the Martian surface for almost a decade …
The ‘secret message’ on NASA’s Curiosity rover
When NASA’s Curiosity rover landed in Gale Crater on August 6, 2012, it too took a message to Mars. In its track marks, visible above as straight bands across the zigzag track marks, is a repeating pattern that reads “JPL.”
The Morse code is: .—- (J), .—. (P), and .-.. (L), which is imprinted on all six wheels.
It’s not just there for fun. The Curiosity rover uses images of the repeating pattern to determine exactly how far it has traveled and allows it to check that there’s been no wheel slippage.
Perseverance is also carrying 10.9 million names
Both of NASA’s most recent rovers also carry millions of names on microchips—from “Send Your Name To Mars” PR campaigns—with Curiosity storing 1.2 million names and Perseverance carrying 10.9 million.
Also on its tiny microchip are 155 essays from the finalists in NASA’s “Name the Rover” essay contest.
The latest from the Perseverance rover
Since the landing the rover has sent back hundreds of images from a zoomable pair of cameras called Mastcam-Z, 142 of which were used to stick together a 360º panorama. It’s so highly detailed that it’s possible to get close-ups of rock features seen in the distance.
Expect many more photos from Perseverance to be posted by NASA in the coming weeks, months and years as the rover searches the ancient lake-bed for signs of ancient life. It will also collect samples of rock and soil for possible return to Earth in the 2030s.
Perseverance is also carrying a small Mars Helicopter, also known as Ingenuity, which expected to take its first powered flight shortly.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
Check Out This Amazing HD Panorama Of Mars From NASA’s Perseverance Rover – Forbes
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