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How SpaceX Starlink works: price, launch date for Elon Musk's internet – Inverse

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Starlink, SpaceX’s internet connectivity satellite constellation, is taking form. The project is designed to offer higher speeds and lower latency than competing setups, so long as the receiver can see the satellites in orbit. It could help fund some of CEO Elon Musk’s more ambitious goals, like a city on Mars and a planet-hopping society.

But although SpaceX has launched three batches of 60 satellites already, ahead of a planned start for services later this year, how to connect to Starlink remains difficult to understand. How much will a subscription cost? Will it be available in my area? Is Starlink going to keep interrupting astronomers’ work? This week, Musk provided new details about Starlink’s features.

SpaceX has ambitious plans for Starlink. It’s requested permission to launch up to 42,000 satellites, a huge number considering there’s around 5,000 satellites in space total. Each craft orbits at 550 kilometers above sea level, much lower than most satellites.

The first 60 Starlink satellites just moments before they were deployed.
The first 60 Starlink satellites just moments before they were deployed.

It could mean big money for SpaceX. Musk told reporters in May 2019 that internet is a $1 trillion market. Capturing around five percent of that would give SpaceX around $50 billion per year. That would greatly eclipse the satellite industry, which only brings in around $5 billion per year in its entirety, and could go some way to meeting the cost of a city on Mars that could run up to $10 trillion.

Here’s how it may work.

SpaceX Starlink: how to connect to the internet service

Based on previously released information, Starlink will not interface directly with devices. In other words, your laptop won’t connect directly to the sky satellites.

Starlink will provide access through a ground terminal. On January 7, Musk said that the terminal “looks like a thin, flat, round UFO on a stick.” It’s also equipped with “motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky.”

This chimes with SpaceX’s FCC fling in October 2018, which described the ground terminal as about the same size as a pizza box. SpaceX’s 2016 filing describes it as a “low-profile user terminal that is easy to mount and operate on walls or roofs.”

In his January 2020 post, Musk even produced a series of easy-to-follow instructions:

Instructions are simply:

– Plug in socket

– Point at sky

These instructions work in either order. No training required.

Elon Musk's instructions for getting online.
Elon Musk’s instructions for getting online.

If Apple taught the world anything, it’s that people love getting online in just two steps:

The service may have already had its first user — Musk claimed in October 2019 that he sent a post via the service to Twitter.

Musk's tweet flies through the air.
Musk’s tweet flies through the air.

SpaceX Starlink: when will it be available?

SpaceX’s website currently claims that service will be provided for the northern United States and Canada as early as 2020. This will expand to “near global coverage of the populated world” by 2021.

The company has completed three launches, each packing 60 production-design satellites. The first was launched in May 2019, the second in November 2019, and the third in January 2020.

Musk claimed ahead of the May 2019 launch that six more launches would be needed to provide minor coverage, and 12 more launches would offer moderate coverage. An earlier version of Starlink’s website claimed that services in the northern United States and Canada would start after six launches, with global coverage of the populated world after 24 launches. This claim has now been removed from the Starlink website.

SpaceX Starlink: how much will it cost per month?

This is the big unknown. SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said in October 2019 that many consumers are paying $80 for “crappy service.” Shotwell did not, however, confirm the price during this appearance.

During a 2015 speech in Seattle, Musk shot down the idea of offering the service for free. He also suggested a price for the terminal at somewhere between $100 and $300.

SpaceX's Starlink mission takes off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida.
The Starlink mission takes off.

SpaceX Starlink: what will be the specifications for speed and latency?

This is another question that may become clearer with real-world tests. The company’s 2016 filing with the FCC described internet service up to one gigabit per second, and latencies between 25 and 35 milliseconds.

More recently, SpaceX has been working with the United States Air Force to offer internet service. The program started tests in early 2018, using the two prototype satellites to reach speeds of up to 610 megabits per second.

SpaceX Starlink: how to sign up for reservations

SpaceX’s website does not offer anywhere to place contact information for more details, but watch this space — Tesla’s Model 3 reservation program proved wildly popular in 2016, with lines forming around blocks to place $1,000 down for the entry-level electric car.

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Green activist hid in Louvre loos before gatecrashing Louis Vuitton’s show

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Marie Cohuet hid in a lavatory inside the Louvre art museum for over two hours, plotting her gatecrashing of Louis Vuitton fashion show in protest at the environmental damage that activists say is caused by the fashion industry.

After edging closer to the show’s entrance as the event neared, Cohuet saw her chance when staff were distracted by the glitzy arrival of actress Catherine Deneuve.

Talking animatedly into her phone, Cohuet pretended to be from the organising team and walked in.

She bided her time until the catwalk parade began to a soundtrack of thunderous organ music and church bells, at which point she unfurled her banner and joined the procession of models under a chandelier-lit runway.

“It was a little bit like taking back power,” the 26-year-old environmental campaigner, a member of the Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth) group, told Reuters of the seconds before she was bundled to the floor by Louis Vuitton’s security agents.

Her banner was scrawled with the slogan “overconsumption = extinction”.

Cohuet said she had taken a stand on Oct. 5 against a fashion industry that fell short on its promises to act against climate change and pushed brands to renew collections faster, and produce more for less cost.

She accused LVMH of having pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but excluding its sub-contractors from its calculations.

Asked by Reuters to comment, LVMH said its 2030 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half, announced in April, included those of subcontractors.

Critics say that fast fashion, which replicates catwalk trends and high-fashion designs at breakneck speed, is wasteful, exploits low-paid workers and pollutes the environment, including through intensive use of pesticides to grow cotton.

On the runway, Cohuet’s heart was in her stomach as she stared ahead and passed the gazes of cinema stars, LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault and members of his clan.

“Sometimes an act of civil disobedience is needed, sometimes we need to challenge head-on those who are screwing the planet today, those who are trampling on human rights and social rights,” Cohuet said.

As a teenager at home, she expressed her indignation at the failure of global leaders to act on climate change. It had only been in the past few years that she joined protests, organised petitions and lobbied lawmakers.

Cohuet said she avoided frivolous clothing purchases and air travel but that there was only so much impact an individual could make. Real change must come from governments and leaders of big business, she continued.

Even so, Cohuet holds little hope for meaningful progress at this month’s United Nations COP26  climate change conference summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

“Nice promises get made on paper but then things tend to falter and states fail to turn them into concrete actions,” she said.

 

(Additional reporting by Mimosa Spencer; writing by Richard Lough; editing by Mark Heinricjh)

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Chinese institutions to receive 2nd batch of lunar samples for research – ecns

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China has announced a list of research institutions that are to receive the second batch of lunar samples brought back by its Chang’e-5 mission.

The newly distributed samples, weighing about 17.9 grams, will be divided into 51 lots and handed over to scientists from 17 research institutions, according to a notice issued by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

Sixteen institutions that are eligible to study the second batch of lunar samples are from the mainland, including Peking University, Tsinghua University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Macau University of Science and Technology is also qualified for using the lunar sample.

According to the notice, the China National Space Administration established a selection commission for the distribution of the samples earlier this month.

The Chang’e-5 probe returned to Earth on Dec. 17, 2020, having retrieved a total of 1,731 grams of lunar samples, mainly rocks and soil from the moon’s surface.

China delivered the first batch of the lunar samples, weighing about 17 grams, to 13 institutions in July.


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SpaceX's SN20 Starship prototype completes its first static fire test – Yahoo Movies Canada

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SpaceX has taken a major step towards sending the Starship to orbit. On Thursday night, the private space corporation has conducted the SN20 Starship prototype’s first static fire test as part of its preparation for the spacecraft’s launch. According to Space, the SN20 is currently outfitted with two Raptor engines: A standard “sea-level” Raptor and a vacuum version designed to operate in space. At 8:16PM Eastern time on Thursday, the company fired the latter. SpaceX then revealed on Twitter that it was the first ever firing of a Raptor vacuum engine integrated onto a Starship.

Around an hour after that, the SN20 lit up yet again in a second static fire test that may have involved both Raptor engines. The SN20 will eventually have six Raptors — three standard and three vacuum — and will be the first prototype to attempt an orbital launch. A Starship launch system is comprised of the Starship spacecraft itself and a massive first-stage booster called the Super Heavy. Both are designed to be reusable and to carry large payloads for trips to low and higher Earth orbits. It can also eventually be used for longer trips to the Moon and to Mars. 

SpaceX doesn’t have a date for the SN20 test flight yet, but the plan is to launch the vehicle with the Super Heavy known as Booster 4 from the company’s Boca Chica site. The booster will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico, while the SN20 will continue its journey towards orbit. 

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