SpaceX, the private space rocket company run by technocrat Elon Musk, is rolling out what it believes can be another pillar of its business model: a broadband internet service powered by its Starlink satellite system.
The company has just released a public beta test of its Starlink broadband internet service, which is beamed to users via over 800 small satellites encapsulating earth.
The beat test, titled the Better Than Nothing Beta Program, launched its initial service for the U.S. and Canada is aimed to start this year, with “near global coverage of the populated world” set to occur in 2021, according to the official description of an app developed by SpaceX which helps users monitor their Starlink service.
The so-called constellation could eventually number as many as 30,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit. (Astronomers have expressed concern that light bouncing off the satellites could affect telescope images. SpaceX has said it would put experimental coatings on the satellites to reduce their brightness.)
“We see this as a way for SpaceX to generate revenue that can be used to develop more advanced rockets and spaceships,” Musk said at the time. “We think this is a key steppingstone on the way to establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon.”
The monthly subscription cost for the beta program is $99. Users will also need to make a single payment of $499 for hardware, including a user terminal, mounting tripod and Wi-Fi router. The pricing, first reported by CNBC, was detailed in emails to potential beta program users. In its early stages, service might be slow. In related news, many are applauding Starlink’s easy to pronounce name, as opposed to the moniker he supposedly bestowed on his youngest son, which he shares with Grimes, “X Æ A-12.”