A billionaire recently purchased a ride on the new SpaceX dragon capsule. He used the possibility of a flight in space to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. All it took was a $10 donation to the hospital to be entered into the raffle. That flight will happen later on this year. Most people can afford a $10 donation to a children’s hospital for a chance to go into space.
Another flight was recently announced on the SpaceX Starship rocket. A Japanese billionaire has invited people to apply to join him on a flight on the rocket and wants to go around the moon. He said that eight people will go with him. Starship is currently going through testing. The 10th iteration successfully landed recently, but later blew up on the pad. Though it still has a long way to go, SpaceX is confident the rocket will be safe to fly by 2023, which is when this flight is scheduled.
Tom Cruise is expected to fly to the International Space Station to film a movie in October this year. The ability to reuse rockets will drastically cut down on the cost of launches into space.
Right now it’s movie stars and billionaires buying flights into space. But I expect there to be a space tourism industry by the end of the decade. An industry where anyone could purchase a flight as if they were going on a cruise. We’ve also heard news about the new internet service offered by SpaceX.
If you’re tired of the awful service provided by your local ISP, and annoyed that there isn’t any viable alternative, SpaceX will have you covered soon. Satellite internet hasn’t sounded enticing in the past. That’s because historically those satellites are in geosynchronous orbit — which is really far away — and there aren’t that many of them because it’s very costly to send a satellite that high up. That means that there’s very limited bandwidth available as the satellite can only process so much data, and there is a lot of lag time between when you click on a button on a webpage and see the response.
SpaceX isn’t going to use geosynchronous satellites for its internet service, Starlink. Starlink is going to use thousands of satellites much closer to Earth. We don’t have an official release date for Starlink, but recent reports state there are already 10,000 customers testing the service in northern latitudes in the U.K., Canada and the U.S. They also have over a thousand satellites up in orbit so far.
That might seem like a lot, but in order to cover the world SpaceX estimates it will need more than 40,000 satellites. In order to provide high speeds, they’ll need a lot more satellites in orbit to provide more processing power. And since these satellites are much closer to Earth, they also don’t cover nearly as much area as if they were in geosynchronous orbit.
Right now, Starlink costs $99 per month and offers speeds and latency (how long it takes for your button click to cause the webpage to do something) that compete with other high-speed internet service providers. The target market for Starlink is rural customers as major metropolitan areas would saturate the satellites, though that might change as they get more satellites in orbit.
If you’re interested in finding out if you can get the service right now, you can go to starlink.com and enter your address. They’ll let you know if they’re providing service to your area.
— Jason Ogaard is a software engineer who formerly lived in Hutchinson. He welcomes your technology questions, and he’ll answer them in this place. Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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