Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

Initial price for Starlink: $99 per month?

According to a CNBC article today, SpaceX is now offering a beta version of its Starlink internet service to customers as the price of $99 per month, plus a $499 charge for equipment.

SpaceX is expanding the beta test of its Starlink satellite internet service, reaching out via email on Monday to people who expressed interest in signing up for the service.

Called the “Better Than Nothing Beta” test, according to multiple screenshots of the email seen by CNBC, initial Starlink service is priced at $99 a month – plus a $499 upfront cost to order the Starlink Kit. That kit includes a user terminal to connect to the satellites, a mounting tripod and a wifi router. There is also now a Starlink app listed by SpaceX on the Google Play and Apple iOS app stores.

“As you can tell from the title, we are trying to lower your initial expectations,” the emails said, signed Starlink Team. “Expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.”

SpaceX did not confirm this story with CNBC. If it is real, the price is disappointingly high, and might very well limit Starlink’s potential. Then again, this is only the beta version. Later versions when under full operation and available to many more customers might bring that price down.

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11 comments

  • Jay

    For us people in the rural areas, that $99 would be cheap compared to HughesNet’s last two of the three plans they offer. I wonder if Starlink limits the data you can download in a month like HughesNet?
    Not much info on the Starlink site. I signed up for more information but I have not received any emails.

  • LocalFluff

    Wasn’t one of the arguments for Starlink to offer free internet to some hundreds of millions of not so well off Africans? $99 is not immediately expedient for most of them.

  • geoffc

    SpaceX/Tesla model – sell a high value model (Roadster), use the money to fund building the rest of the system (Model S), then work to get it cheaper (model 3,Y) and so on…

  • Edward

    At $99 per month, each million users would generate an income of $1.2 billion per year. I suspect that as subscribers increase in number, the monthly price will drop. Either way, it looks to me like Starlink will be a serious cash cow for SpaceX.

  • Jay is right. $99 is a great price! Especially if the data limit per month is high, say 400GB. For us rural customers, we have no other options.

    LocalFluff, I suspect the usage model in very poor areas will be to use Starlink as backhaul for new cell sites. Everyone, even the extremely poor, has a cellphone. The problem is spotty coverage. So, now the local cell provider can install self-contained solar+battery-powered cell sites, using Starlink as the backhaul. No need for any other connections. Extending cell coverage to unserved areas becomes very cheap.

    Bandwith supplied by Starlink is local. You are only sharing a particular satellite with your immediate neighbors. Very different from geostationary sats like HughesNet, where satellite bandwidth is shared by every customer all the time.

  • pzatchok

    This would be pretty good for a whole school or village to share in Africa.

    I even know of a cheap way to link router to router over a mile or 5 apart.

  • Jeff

    In case you missed this ArsTechnica story from last month:

    https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/09/spacex-starlink-brings-internet-to-emergency-responders-in-wildfire-areas/

    Has a few tidbits on real world experiences by folks on the ground.

  • Jay

    Jeff,
    That was in my backyard. The only thing left in Malden, the town that was burned down, are two houses and a church. In the rural county I live in, the rolling hills create “black holes” to cell phone service. Besides the antiquated phone landlines, the only way to get out is either with ham radio or satellite internet.

  • mkent

    LocalFluff, I suspect the usage model in very poor areas will be to use Starlink as backhaul for new cell sites. Everyone, even the extremely poor, has a cellphone. The problem is spotty coverage. So, now the local cell provider can install self-contained solar+battery-powered cell sites, using Starlink as the backhaul. No need for any other connections. Extending cell coverage to unserved areas becomes very cheap.

    I’ll note that this service has been provided for the last 6-1/2 years by O3b. They have 20 satellites in an 8,000 km orbit (about 1/4 as high as GEO).

  • Mike Borgelt

    With heaps of satellites in LEO would a positioning service be possible at low marginal cost?
    I know that it is currently free courtesy of US DoD, China, Russia and the Euros. Chips that use all four are readily available but they are all under national control.
    Starlink positioning could provide a backup to GPS which is starting to worry people because new generation air traffic management (ADSB) completely depends on GPS. Starlink could also provide the comms links to ATC centers. Maybe worth thinking about.

  • A. Nonymous

    $100/mo. is in the same ballpark as many rural ISPs, which are Starlink’s primary competitors, and far, far below what the MEO and GEO constellations are charging for high-latency satellite internet.

    I’ve been expecting roughly that price ever since they announced their target markets.

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