Two Starlink launches tonight as satellite competition heats up

Telesat Lightspeed.jpg

Two separate launches within a few hours are set to boost SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service this evening, as the company expands its sales to more parts of the world.

The company is charging US$99 a month for its service, which provides between 50Mbps and 150Mbps, plus $499 for the receiving equipment and a $50 shipping fee in the US.

Starlink is taking orders in a number of US states and parts of Canada, and even has at least one reported UK customer in the middle of Exmoor in Devon, who is receiving 85-90Mbps, according to Business Insider.

Meanwhile Ottawa-based Telesat last week gave an order to Thales Alenia Space to make its Lightspeed low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which will be 1,000km above the surface.

Lightspeed (pictured) will initially have 298 satellites, and will operate as a gigabit Ethernet wholesale service for network operators looking for low-latency connections.


Telesat said last week: “The first Lightspeed satellites are expected to be launched in approximately two years, with customer beta testing beginning shortly thereafter and commercial services commencing in the second half of 2023.”

Starlink, which is working on a direct retail business model, already has 1,021 satellites out of a planned fleet of 4,425, orbiting at heights between 1,110kmn and 1,325km.

Bad weather meant SpaceX delayed a launch, a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 more satellites, on Sunday night/Monday morning by 24 hours. Now the launch, from Cape Canaveral in Florida, will take place at 22:59 local time, 03:59 UT/GMT on Tuesday.

A second Falcon 9 launch will take place 2 hours 18 minutes afterwards from the nearby Kennedy Space Center at 01:17 on Tuesday local time (06:17 UT/GMT), adding further to the Starlink fleet.

Starlink is in competition with OneWeb, the satellite company bought out of bankruptcy last year by Airtel and the UK government. It now has 110 satellites in orbit out of a planned 648, and plans to start wholesale-only commercial service in October 2020.

Amazon’s project Kuiper has approval from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 3,236 LEO satellites, but has yet to launch any.