SpaceX, the space exploration and satellite company launched and headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, announced it has received more than 500,000 orders for Starlink, its satellite internet service, CNBC reports.
“To date, over half a million people have placed an order or put down a deposit for Starlink,” SpaceX operations engineer Siva Bharadvaj said during a launch webcast.
The mission is Starlink’s 26th, and it was also the 13th Falcon 9 launch of the year. The launch took place, appropriately, on Star Wars Day, May 4, Space.com reports. The Falcon rocket was named after the Millennium Falcon from the original George Lucas trilogy. The rare daytime launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center gave spectators full visibility of the rocket launch and the successful landing of the first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship. It was this particular Falcon’s ninth launch, Space.com says.
With Tuesday’s launch of 60 satellites, there are now over 1,5000 broadband satellites in the Starlink constellation, making it the world’s largest satellite constellation to date, according to CNBC. The service is now available in select areas for a price of $99 per month, plus $499 upfront for the equipment. The Starlink Kit includes a user terminal that resembles a satellite dish and a Wi-Fi router. Currently, the service has roughly 10,000 active subscribers in more than six countries, according to Business Insider. For those who placed pre-orders, CNBC says, the $99 deposits are fully refundable and do not guarantee service if the customer is not in a service area.
In a tweet Tuesday, Elon Musk stated, “Most likely, all of the initial 500K will receive service. More of a challenge when we get into the several million user range.” Musk also said that the “only limitation is high density of users in urban areas.”
Starlink was not designed for highly populated areas with options for broadband internet access through traditional providers. Starlink was created to serve those in rural areas who currently have limited options for any type of internet access and usually resort to pricey yet slow satellite internet services. The company’s “Better Than Nothing Beta” program set realistic expectations for users, with an email to beta test subscribers stating they could expect speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps. But Business Insider reported that some users recorded download speeds over 200 Mbps. By comparison, companies like Xfinity, Verizon, and AT&T advertise speeds up to 1 Gbps.
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