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New SpaceX launch: Starlink now has 360 internet-beaming satellites, as US service nears

SpaceX's Starlink gets closer to minor coverage of North America.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

SpaceX has successfully launched another 60 Starlink satellites, boosting its internet-beaming space network to 360 satellites.    

The latest launch on Wednesday, SpaceX's sixth Starlink mission to date, puts it much closer to the minor coverage of North America that SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk expects to achieve when the network reaches 400 satellites. 

With 800 satellites, it will have moderate coverage. SpaceX plans to offer a broadband service in North America in 2020. 

SEE: Exomedicine arrives: How labs in space could pave the way for healthcare breakthroughs on Earth (cover story PDF)

The 60 satellites were carried by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocker, which launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  

SpaceX reused the fairing from the first launch of Starlink satellites in May 2019. It was also the second time SpaceX has reflown a full payload fairing, which are recovered in the Atlantic Ocean by the Ms Tree and Mr Chief recovery vessels. 

Musk last week revealed that Starlink will be suitable for about 3% to 4% of the population that existing broadband networks can't reach. The Starlink network isn't intended for high-density areas such as cities because it lacks sufficient bandwidth. But Musk contends it will have a low network latency of about 20 milliseconds. 

According to a Wall Street Journal report, SpaceX has convinced the Federal Communications Commission to propose a policy change that would improve its chances of getting a grant under the $16bn Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. 

The FCC intends to prohibit some satellite broadband services that can't meet the requirement that "95% or more of all peak period measurements of network round trip latency are at or below 100 milliseconds".

SEE: Internet from space: Elon Musk's SpaceX launches 60 new satellites for US service

"In contrast, SpaceX contends that its low-earth orbit satellite service can meet the low-latency threshold," the FCC noted last week.

"We seek comment on whether such providers should also be prohibited from selecting low latency in combination with any of the performance tiers. Should applicants proposing to use any other types of technologies be prohibited from selecting low latency?"

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