SpaceX, which has just brought the first people to the International Space Station, also transports 60 new satellites into Earth orbit about every 14 days. Altogether, there are already 480 of them (some are experimental), and by the end of the year there are expected to be around 800. That should be enough for Musk’s company to start offering global internet. However, there is a problem that has not yet been solved – receiving terminals that will be on the user side.
Elon Musk is aware that so far all commercial satellite constellations have failed (One Web, Iridium…), partly due to the high price for users. Starlink should be cheap enough to be afforded by “in the middle of nowhere” users, those who don’t have access to conventional optical, copper, or mobile communications. So the receiving terminal should also be cheap, a kind of “ UFO on a stick”As Musk called it some time ago. It should cost around $ 200 (to be shared by multiple users), and currently the projected price of such terminals is still any $ 2,000. Namely, the receiver is not an ordinary antenna, but a complex part of electronics / mechanics, which will have to constantly maintain a precise orientation to the satellites, which will travel above our heads relatively quickly (it is not a geostationary fleet). In addition, the receiver will have to be outdoors, ie available to nature (rain, snow, wind) and last at least five years. Servicing is more or less out of the question, as receivers will most often be installed where there is no infrastructure.
In May 2019, Musk said that 400 operating satellites would be needed for the basic system of operation (which will of course “share” Internet traffic with each other), and that 800 would be enough for sufficient coverage. profitable, they would need 1000. Any more, according to Musk, would be great, as it would mean that the need for their services is growing and that they have to provide additional bandwidth with additional satellites. With possibly tens of thousands of satellites, the global internet business could be worth over $ 50 billion a year, Musk says.