11 votes

SpaceX launches fifty-eight Starlink satellites on ninth Starlink launch, including three Planet SkySats

22 comments

  1. [15]
    vord
    Link
    I have so many people in my life excited about Starlink going live, and that confuses me quite a bit. If it was Comcast as the only owner of the space-based broadband infrastructure, I think far...

    I have so many people in my life excited about Starlink going live, and that confuses me quite a bit.

    If it was Comcast as the only owner of the space-based broadband infrastructure, I think far fewer people would be thrilled with that prospect.

    Especially since it's a US-based company, and that basically hands the 3-letter agencies an easy kill-switch and traffic capture network across the globe.

    3 votes
    1. [6]
      unknown user
      Link Parent
      People getting excited for Starlink have their enthusiasm misplaced, in my view. Unrelated to the reasons you mention, but SpX is clearly positioning this as a rural/remote solution to internet...

      People getting excited for Starlink have their enthusiasm misplaced, in my view. Unrelated to the reasons you mention, but SpX is clearly positioning this as a rural/remote solution to internet connectivity in high latitudes (where it's easier to cover with satellites due to the orbital inclinations involved)—there's very little chance this is coming to big cities near you™ for at least half a decade.

      For the 5% where this product actually matters, it will be a game changer however—US-based company or not (and let's get real, five 9's of people couldn't care less about kill switches or traffic monitoring).

      12 votes
      1. [5]
        vord
        Link Parent
        I'm not sure what you mean about cities not being covered...It's not like those cities won't also have access. I can think of plenty of places within 100 miles that don't have access to anything...

        I'm not sure what you mean about cities not being covered...It's not like those cities won't also have access. I can think of plenty of places within 100 miles that don't have access to anything other than 4g, if that. Even then, 5 years isn't much in the scope of building massive infrastructure.

        Even if it is a gamechanger, it's one that is virtually impossible to regulate or compete with. Yea, lots of people will gain access...but they'll almost certainly never be given another choice. And that hasn't worked well in other areas with broadband monopolies.

        I'm incredibly lucky in having a choice of three gigabit services to choose from, and my prices are a solid 15-20% lower than areas of similar density with two providers (same companies mind). In less dense areas, but definitely not rural, they only have access to a single provider. They'll end up paying even higher prices for 1/10th or less the speed.

        Skylink is a poor substitute for proper mandated universal access. Phone service was deemed so important it was mandated that lines were run for everyone. How is internet access any less important? People hate their internet providers, it's almost a universal truism. That's a function of no choices, where they can ignore problems, raise prices, and have crappy support.

        I might be in a minority caring about kill switches, spy networks, and censorship. But I do see a lot of news in major outlets about how bad it is when other countries do these things, so it feels quite hypocritical.

        And I don't fundamentally trust a single word about public benefit from a for-profit. They'll readily lie about anything to build support for something they want. That public benefit may also be true, but that often pales to the real profit generation from abusing that benefit. I know I'm also in a minority taking that stance as well, but I've seen that be more true than false in my lifetime.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          unknown user
          Link Parent
          I'm very confused by your comment—you seem to be touching upon multiple points simultaneously which don't align in response to anything I've said? With respect to cities not being covered, I'm not...

          I'm very confused by your comment—you seem to be touching upon multiple points simultaneously which don't align in response to anything I've said?

          I'm not sure what you mean about cities not being covered...It's not like those cities won't also have access. I can think of plenty of places within 100 miles that don't have access to anything other than 4g, if that. Even then, 5 years isn't much in the scope of building massive infrastructure.

          With respect to cities not being covered, I'm not saying they won't be covered, but most of the analysis I've seen has indicated that:

          1. The initial satellite shells won't be able to deliver to dense markets because there simply isn't enough bandwidth serviced by these initial satellites (SpaceX has submitted requests to the ITU to service more customers via a much larger VLEO constellation that operates at a lower altitude than the current satellites, and at different wavelengths).

          2. Technical limitations from the current generation of both the receiver design, and the satellites themselves will prevent adoption in areas with high areal densities of receivers (if everyone on a street in a neighbourhood owned a receiver, the current architecture would fall over).

          3. It probably isn't financially viable to manage and handle launching a VLEO constellation (up to 35k satellites) via Falcon 9, which can only place ~60 satellites into orbit per launch. Starship has a much larger capacity (~480 sats per launch), but is still several years away from being ready, regardless of what armchair SpaceX fans say.

          5 votes
          1. vord
            Link Parent
            I wasn't aware of initial technical limitations there, just around prior news stories where stuff gets glossed over. The rest was largely an elaboration on why it being a gamechanger is dangerous....

            I wasn't aware of initial technical limitations there, just around prior news stories where stuff gets glossed over.

            The rest was largely an elaboration on why it being a gamechanger is dangerous. Given that rural internet hasn't seen a serious competitor yet, if SpaceX succeeds I'm betting nobody else will try short of strict mandates forcing them to.

            1 vote
        2. [2]
          CALICO
          Link Parent
          From your parent comment: I don't think this is wrong. But, they're not Comcast and they don't come with Comcast's (and others) baggage. There's also the argument to be made for competition. The...

          From your parent comment:

          I have so many people in my life excited about Starlink going live, and that confuses me quite a bit.

          If it was Comcast as the only owner of the space-based broadband infrastructure, I think far fewer people would be thrilled with that prospect.

          I don't think this is wrong. But, they're not Comcast and they don't come with Comcast's (and others) baggage. There's also the argument to be made for competition. The big telecoms get away with murder, because you often don't have a choice and they generally agree not to interfere with each other. An outsider is disruptive. Say when Starlink begins providing service in large towns, cities, and suburbs, that they offer either a better price compared to Comcast, better speeds, or both. The consumer is incentivized to switch their ISP to Starlink. That leaves Comcast with the option to upgrade their service from a bare minimum, to something worth a damn, or bleed money as Starlink takes their market share. As well, they might start running the infrastructure to the locations they've been neglecting.

          Especially since it's a US-based company, and that basically hands the 3-letter agencies an easy kill-switch and traffic capture network across the globe.

          You're not wrong.


          Even if it is a gamechanger, it's one that is virtually impossible to regulate or compete with.

          See above, though I can't touch on the regulation part.
          Also, while Starlink will be the first ubiquitous (there are currently non-global & specialty use satellite internet services) LEO Satellite Internet Service, they're not going to be the only one forever. SpaceX currently has an effective monopoly (Rocket Lab's Electron Rocket has a much lower payload capacity compared to the Falcon 9, but they have some market share)
          when it comes to private spaceflight, but it's not the only one forever.
          Amazon & Blue Origin is the most obvious future competitor. Samsung wants a constellation too. I'm sure there will be others too.

          And I don't fundamentally trust a single word about public benefit from a for-profit.

          That's probably wise. Personally, I take Elon Musk true to his word that his end game is making humans a multi-planetary species. That doesn't mean he can't be a super-villian planning to crown himself the Trillionaire Emperor of Mars, ruling with an iron fist. But it doesn't mean the public benefits along the way are an undesired byproduct. Things are rarely so simple.

          Musk is on the record saying:

          "Total internet-connectivity revenue in the world is on the order of $1 trillion [annually], and we think maybe we can access about 3% of that, or maybe 5%,"
          [...]
          *"We think this is a key steppingstone towards establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon [...] We believe we can use the revenue from Starlink to fund Starship."

          So if that speculative number is accurate, Starlink could expect to be taking in $30–50Billion per year. Currently SpaceX takes in about $3B annual. A 10x increase in revenue would allow SpaceX to accelerate their tempo for Mars missions.

          3 votes
          1. vord
            Link Parent
            With respect to another satellite provider: I love the night sky. Starlink itself poses dangers for logistical problems of increasing space debris. I don't want our LEO looking like in Wall-E...

            With respect to another satellite provider:

            I love the night sky. Starlink itself poses dangers for logistical problems of increasing space debris. I don't want our LEO looking like in Wall-E because every tech monopoly wants a piece and no shared-last mile rule is in place. And I doubt if any other player wanted to compete SpaceX could make that difficult if they wanted, given their attempt to dominate spaceflights.

            So that leaves the ground based providers who already ignore the huge untapped market due to upfront costs.

            And if you think SpaceX won't go Comcast with no viable competiton, I have a bridge to sell you.

    2. [8]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      It seems like not a big deal if you already have Internet, but it still might have a good effect to the extent that having one more competitor is useful for bargaining or for backup. But I expect...

      It seems like not a big deal if you already have Internet, but it still might have a good effect to the extent that having one more competitor is useful for bargaining or for backup.

      But I expect prices would be set so it would mostly be for people who don't use much bandwidth on the average day, or don't have an alternative.

      2 votes
      1. [7]
        vord
        Link Parent
        That will translate to high prices ($20 a month for first year, $100 a month afterwards in fine print), unless a competitor shows up. I'm skeptical any will given that it won't be nearly as...

        or don't have an alternative.

        That will translate to high prices ($20 a month for first year, $100 a month afterwards in fine print), unless a competitor shows up. I'm skeptical any will given that it won't be nearly as profitable for either company. There's also the logistics of implementing two gigantic satellite arrays.

        1 vote
        1. zlsa
          Link Parent
          For context, where I currently live, the only options for internet are satellite or a point-to-point microwave link. The latter costs nearly $300 USD/month for 5mbps up/down.

          For context, where I currently live, the only options for internet are satellite or a point-to-point microwave link. The latter costs nearly $300 USD/month for 5mbps up/down.

          3 votes
        2. [2]
          unknown user
          Link Parent
          My understanding is that the per user per month price may be $100 to start with—thus the decision to compete in more expensive rural areas first where existing options are either more expensive or...

          That will translate to high prices ($20 a month for first year, $100 a month afterwards in fine print)

          My understanding is that the per user per month price may be $100 to start with—thus the decision to compete in more expensive rural areas first where existing options are either more expensive or non-existent.

          There's no way any Starlink plan for the foreseeable future is going to cost $20/month, with or without egregiously manipulative marketing.

          1. vord
            Link Parent
            The numbers were hyperbolic exaggerations to highlight current ISP marketing strategies. I know when I upgraded tiers every time, I refused to go back unless I had to start missing payments.

            The numbers were hyperbolic exaggerations to highlight current ISP marketing strategies.

            I know when I upgraded tiers every time, I refused to go back unless I had to start missing payments.

        3. [3]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          I meant a competitor that doesn't use satellites. I assume there are places where currently there's only one company providing Internet.

          I meant a competitor that doesn't use satellites. I assume there are places where currently there's only one company providing Internet.

          1. [2]
            vord
            Link Parent
            There's tons more places (in the USA) that don't even have 1. I have a buddy living on a farm, and only in the last year did 4g with a reasonable price/data ratio become viable. He still often...

            There's tons more places (in the USA) that don't even have 1. I have a buddy living on a farm, and only in the last year did 4g with a reasonable price/data ratio become viable. He still often drags his desktops to other's houses to do game/OS updates.

            He lives less than 1/2 mile from a main Comcast line. They won't run it without a $15,000 payment.

            Maybe starlink will help. But I am doubtful considering how crap the telecoms have been thus far. They'll likely just drop improving rural/semi-rural at all and focus on the more lucrative markets, leaving no other competitors.

            1 vote
            1. skybrian
              Link Parent
              Yes, having fast Internet where it wasn't practical before is likely to be the biggest effect. Starlink could in theory compete anywhere, though they are unlikely to have the bandwidth to compete...

              Yes, having fast Internet where it wasn't practical before is likely to be the biggest effect.

              Starlink could in theory compete anywhere, though they are unlikely to have the bandwidth to compete everywhere, so it would make sense for them not to compete very aggressively on price. I would be surprised if prices weren't pretty high at first. Existing ISP's probably don't have much to worry about at first.

              I wonder what the practical limits would be though? They can keep launching more and better satellites, lowering costs and increasing bandwidth, eventually competing more on price.

              1 vote
  2. [7]
    sqew
    Link
    I can't believe that in the ~7 months since the first launch of the operational Starlink sats (so leaving out the very first "v0.9" launch) SpaceX has launched in the neighborhood of 500...

    I can't believe that in the ~7 months since the first launch of the operational Starlink sats (so leaving out the very first "v0.9" launch) SpaceX has launched in the neighborhood of 500 satellites, putting them at about a third of the ~1500 required for the first shell of the Starlink constellation. It's amazing how fast they're getting them up there.

    1 vote
    1. [6]
      CALICO
      Link Parent
      Yeah they shouldn't have any problems surpassing the 2.2k by March 2024 required by the FCC. 538 currently launched leaves about 28 more launches to hit 2,200 in the next 3 years, 8.5 months. Once...

      Yeah they shouldn't have any problems surpassing the 2.2k by March 2024 required by the FCC.

      “SpaceX plans to increase the Falcon launch frequency to 20 launches per year from LC-39A and up to 50 launches per year from LC-40 by the year 2024. However, as Starship/Super Heavy launches gradually increase to 24 launches per year, the number of launches of the Falcon would decrease.“

      –SpaceX, Starship Environmental Assessment Draft, August 2019

      538 currently launched leaves about 28 more launches to hit 2,200 in the next 3 years, 8.5 months.
      Once Starship is launching off the pad—maybe before 2024, maybe after—the tempo really picks up. Going off payload mass, Starship could launch somewhere from 200–300 Starlink satellites per.

      1. [5]
        sqew
        Link Parent
        It'll definitely be amazing to see Starship launch. If I had to guess, I'd say the Starlink constellation will be complete by the time Starship starts launching, so I wonder if they'll dedicate...

        It'll definitely be amazing to see Starship launch. If I had to guess, I'd say the Starlink constellation will be complete by the time Starship starts launching, so I wonder if they'll dedicate one or two of those launches per year to "restocking" the constellation to cover natural deorbits or hardware failures.

        1. [4]
          spctrvl
          Link Parent
          Likely the initial (550km) one will, but there's additional constellations being planned at different orbital altitudes. The 340km constellation will consist of several times the number of...

          Likely the initial (550km) one will, but there's additional constellations being planned at different orbital altitudes. The 340km constellation will consist of several times the number of satellites of the 550km one, and so practically requires Starship for deployment.

          1. [3]
            unknown user
            Link Parent
            Both yourself and @sqew may be mildly enthused by this render of Starship carrying ~240 Starlink satellites then!

            Both yourself and @sqew may be mildly enthused by this render of Starship carrying ~240 Starlink satellites then!

            1 vote
            1. sqew
              Link Parent
              Haha, consider me very enthused. I wonder if they'll need a slightly more complex deployment system to prevent anything from bumping Starship's "chomper" door on the way out.

              Haha, consider me very enthused. I wonder if they'll need a slightly more complex deployment system to prevent anything from bumping Starship's "chomper" door on the way out.

            2. spctrvl
              Link Parent
              Makes me wonder if they'll redesign the satellites once Starship is flying, to take better advantage of the fairing volume, since 240 satellites would leave a lot of excess payload capacity....

              Makes me wonder if they'll redesign the satellites once Starship is flying, to take better advantage of the fairing volume, since 240 satellites would leave a lot of excess payload capacity. Although if they get turnaround times as low as they're hoping to, it might not matter.