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SpaceX may want to launch 42,000 internet satellites — about 5 times more spacecraft than humanity has ever flown

Date published: 2019-10-17
Originally published: Here. Excerpt below.

If SpaceX gets its way, the company's planned fleet of Starlink internet satellites could soon outnumber all the spacecraft humanity has ever launched by a ratio of nearly five-to-one.
That's according to Caleb Henry at Space News, who on Tuesday wrote that SpaceX, founded by tech mogul Elon Musk, now seeks permission from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to fly an additional 30,000 Starlink satellites into space. Those tens of thousands would be additional to the nearly 12,000 spacecraft that SpaceX asked permission to launch from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Put together, this suggests SpaceX now seeks to fly a maximum of 42,000 Starlink satellites.
The figure would be striking if it comes to pass. SpaceX would have 20 times the number of operational satellites in orbit today, per a recent tally by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The company's notional mega-fleet would also eclipse the count of all spacecraft ever launched into space by humanity (both operational and defunct) by nearly five-fold, based on a United Nations database.
An illustration of SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet constellation in orbit around Earth.
Read more: Elon Musk just revealed new details about Starlink, a plan to surround Earth with thousands of high-speed internet satellites. Here's how it might work.
But SpaceX may be able to get by with a fraction of this number as it tries to build a floating internet backbone around Earth, bathe most of the planet's surface in ultra-high-speed web access, and compete with companies like OneWeb and Amazon's Kuiper System project.
"For the system to be economically viable, it's really on the order of 1,000 satellites," Musk told Business Insider during a call with journalists in May, "which is obviously a lot of satellites, but it's way less than 10,000 or 12,000."
SpaceX's thinking appears to have changed since then, and for reasons not yet publicly confirmed. As more satellite constellations ...

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