SpaceX Starlink pursues 'complete coverage' with polar orbit launch
SpaceX successfully completed another Starlink launch to polar orbit, bringing it a crucial step closer to providing "complete coverage of Earth," according to CEO Elon Musk.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket launched from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Sunday, July 10, at 9:39 p.m. EDT (6:39 p.m. local California time). Shortly afterward, the first stage landed on a SpaceX drone ship at sea.
The launch was SpaceX's 29th launch of 2022 and its 50th Starlink launch, having first lofted a batch of 60 of the internet satellites to orbit on May 23, 2019.
"These polar launches will enable complete coverage of Earth (were approved by local government)," SpaceX boss Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the launch.
SpaceX Starlink aims for 'complete coverage'
The private space company has now launched more than 2,600 Starlink satellites into orbit, with more than 2,300 currently active. Back in May, Musk tweeted that SpaceX is "expecting over 4,200 Starlink satellites in operation within 18 months, which is ~2/3 of all active satellites of Earth."
Each new batch improves internet speed and reliability for SpaceX's Starlink service. The company recently announced it would also provide new tiers of its service for RV users as well as for boat owners.
These polar launches will enable complete coverage of Earth (where approved by local government) https://t.co/0ssHobwdp3— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2022
Starlink is currently available in a total of 32 countries. SpaceX, however, means to vastly expand availability later this year and in 2023. Next year, it aims to provide coverage to the entire continent of Africa. Musk's assertion that the latest polar launch will provide "complete coverage" suggests the latest batch of satellites is a crucial part of the company's plans for expansion.
SpaceX Starlink leads the race for satellite internet dominance
Internet speed analyst Ookla recently announced that Starlink provides the fastest satellite internet in the world. According to its analysis, Starlink even provides faster internet than fixed broadband in the majority of European countries where it's available.
SpaceX has garnered praise for helping civilians to connect to the internet in war-torn Ukraine. A recent estimate suggested that 150,000 users were connecting to the service for free daily. The company has also faced criticism for congesting low-Earth orbit and disrupting the work of astronomers. Even NASA recently warned Starlink satellites could impede its ability to detect a potentially hazardous asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
Whether we like it or not, the era of satellite internet is here. Amazon recently penned a contract for 84 launches for its own satellite internet constellation, called Project Kuiper, meaning SpaceX will soon have a very high-profile rival in the race for orbital internet supremacy.
With many scientists still unhappy with the IAU's definition of "planet," it's possible the debate will never be resolved!