Satellite technology company SpaceX has completed the seventh launch in its Starlink global LEO satellite internet programme, with CEO Elon Musk claiming that the company was on course to begin initial public trials of the service before the end of this year.
Starlink had previously announced its intention to begin offering services in the Northern US and Canada before the end of 2020, expanding to offer “near global coverage of the populated world” in 2021.
Following the most recent successful Starlink launch on April 22, Mr Musk was asked on Twitter if the company was still on course to maintain that scheduled roll-out. His tweeted response said that the “Private beta begins in ~3 months, (and a) public beta in ~6 months, starting with high latitudes.”
The launch last week, the seventh in the Starlink series (in addition to an original test launch of two satellites), added another 60 satellites to the constellation, bringing the total number of operational satellites currently in orbit to 417.
SpaceX is planning to deploy more than 1,500 Ku-band and Ka-band satellites in an orbit of approximately 550km by late 2021 or early 2022, to reach its “near global coverage” service goal. The next phase of the Starlink project, updated plans for which have been submitted to the US Federal Communication Commission for approval, would see the total number of satellites in orbit increase to more than 4,400 over the next few years.