Browsing: Starlink

UFOs spotted over Washington have a very boring explanation

If you’re a Washington state resident, this might sound familiar: Streaks of otherworldly light were spotted in the skies above western Washington late Tuesday night, and residents were quick to record what could only be described as UFOs. This same thing happened a number of weeks ago and it turned out to be debris from SpaceX’s recent Starlink satellite launch. It happened again this week and, well, it looks like history is repeating itself. As local news outlets reported, sightings of the lights flooded social media, with residents wondering what they were seeing and some suggesting it might be extraterrestrial spacecraft. Unfortunately for all you alien hunters out there, the explanation of this recent sighting is just as mundane as the previous one. SpaceX launched a Starlink mission yesterday, delivering another batch of its tiny communications satellites into orbit, and the bright streak of light moving across the sky was just sunlight being reflected off of the satellites back down to Earth. The reports of sightings began to pop up around 9:00 p.m. local time and were largely the same. Witnesses said they say a line of lights moving across the sky as one, almost as though they were part of a singular structure. This matches up well with what SpaceX’s Starlink satellite deployments look like. When a Starlink mission is launched, the rocket pushes up to 60 of the tiny satellites skyward. At the appropriate time, it releases all of the satellites at once, and as they slowly spread out they form a line. This shape travels through the sky high above our heads and eventually, SpaceX spreads them out so they can join the larger Starlink grid. At first, however, they might look like one solid line of lights, and can certainly be mistaken for a single object. SpaceX’s Starlink communications network is the company’s big bet on its own future in the communications industry. The goal is to be able to provide fast and stable internet access to anyone that wants it, regardless of their proximity to a population center or cable/fiber infrastructure. The company is already in a beta testing phase and has permission to provide its services in North America. The plan is ambitious, and while SpaceX has already launched over 1,300 of its Starlink satellites, it’s going to need a lot more if it wants to provide the world with high-speed data access. So far, SpaceX has permission to launch up to 12,000 satellites and has requested clearance to launch up to 30,000 more. With each Starlink launch adding 60 (or fewer) satellites to the tally, it’s going to be a while before SpaceX reaches that figure, but future missions using SpaceX’s Starship could allow for even larger batches to be launched and potentially speed things up a bit.

Elon Musk says half a million Starlink users will ‘most likely’ receive service

SpaceX’s Starlink internet offering is very slowly taking shape. The network of high-flying satellites is going to take a long time to fully build out, but with over 1,300 of the tiny spacecraft currently orbiting Earth, plenty of beta testers have already signed up to be the first onboard. The company had remained largely quiet when it comes to the total number of sign-ups for the service so far, but that recently changed. As Reuters reports, SpaceX boss Elon Musk revealed on Tuesday that over 500,000 people had already placed their $99 deposits for Starlink internet service. The deposits, which are fully refundable in the event that the individual decides they don’t want the service, or if SpaceX can’t provide service, will get you a spot in line to receive Starlink when SpaceX is ready to add more customers. It’s unclear exactly how many customers the current Starlink network can support, but Musk took to Twitter to offer his opinion. In a reply to a tweet about the initial report of 500,000 Starlink orders, Musk noted that Starlink does face some limitations at the moment. Of note, individuals that want the service but are located in congested urban areas may find the speeds lacking, and Space may ultimately decide it can’t add more customers in certain areas until it boosts its network of satellites further. “Only limitation is high density of users in urban areas,” Musk tweeted. “Most likely, all of the initial 500k will receive service. More of a challenge when we get into the several million user range.” The Starlink satellite network is designed to be a grid that circles the globe. The idea is that if a person needs internet service, the massive grid ensures that satellites can deliver access to the network. However, with only a tiny fraction of the total number of planned satellites in orbit right now, a bunch of users in a small area could cause problems from a bandwidth standpoint. That’s understandable, and the service is in beta after all, but it will require some delicate balancing on SpaceX’s part to make sure it can bring new customers on board without causing problems for existing users. The company currently has permission to offer its service in North America but eventually wants to roll out Starlink in as many countries as it can. To do that, it’ll need to boost its 1,300 satellites with many thousands more. SpaceX has permission to launch up to 12,000 satellites as soon as it can, but that’s not enough for the company’s grand ambitions. It’s also seeking permission to launch an additional 30,000 Starlink satellites once it reaches the 12,000-satellite mark. It’ll be incredibly interesting to see how rapidly SpaceX can roll out the service and at what point it decides to end the beta test and begin offering Starlink to everyone. It’s obviously not there yet, but how much longer will the company wait?

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