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The competition heats up: SpaceX has filed papers with the FCC to begin testing the design and construction and launch of a constellation of 4,000 satellites for providing global internet access.
Musk’s FCC filing proposes tests starting next year. If all goes well, the service could be up and running in about five years. The satellites would be deployed from one of SpaceX’s rockets, the Falcon 9. Once in orbit, the satellites would connect to ground stations at three West Coast facilities. The purpose of the tests is to see whether the antenna technology used on the satellites will be able to deliver high-speed Internet to the ground without hiccups.
It appears to me that Musk’s constellation will be made up of cubesats, small and cheap to build, and easy to launch in large numbers as secondary payloads on every Falcon 9 launch. In other words, as long as SpaceX can get customers to pay for launches of large satellites on its Falcon 9, Musk will be able to launch and maintain his constellation of cubesats for free.