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Will SpaceX's Starlink start deployment by 2021?

In November 2016, SpaceX filed an application with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license to use portions of telecommunications frequencies to communicate with a network of satellites that would bring internet coverage to every point on the planet, no matter how remote. Named Starlink (thankfully not called "Skynet"), this network would provide speeds of up to one gigabit per second (Gbps). Each satellite would have a total throughput of about 20 Gbps, utilizing a 2 GHz frequency band in the 11-15 GHz range.

But the most ambitious aspect of SpaceX's plan is the number of satellites they plan to launch: 4,425 satellites, with a potential for 7,518 satellites in orbital planes even closer to the ground. Only 1,500 satellites currently orbit Earth.

On Feb. 22, 2018 SpaceX launched two test satellites, Tintin-1 and Tintin 2, which appear to share many of the characteristics of the satellites that the plan would eventually deploy.

But will Starlink actually happen? And when? A full system as described could cost tens of billions of dollars total, and it is unclear whether the financing is in place. And there are competitive efforts by the OneWeb satellite constellation, a major Samsung effort and others. We'll ask:

By 2021, will at least ten Starlink satellites have been launched and be in orbit?

This can include the Tintins, and is aimed at whether "production level" satellites are starting to be put aloft.


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