A SpaceX representative said on Tuesday that the company was testing its ability to provide in-flight high-speed broadband access to planes, according to a Bloomberg report. Vice President Jonathan Hofeller told the crowd at the Airline Passenger Experience Association Expo in Long Beach, California., That he would. start offering their services to airlines “as soon as possible.”
Sky high opportunity
SpaceX will join an overcrowded group of competing companies to serve the in-flight wifi market, estimated at around $ 3.3 billion per year. Commercial airplanes have traditionally connected to the Internet via cell towers on the ground or via large satellites in geosynchronous orbit. For example, industry leader ViaSat Inc. operates one satellite over United States and a second satellite that covers most of Canada, the North Atlantic and parts of Europe. Surprisingly, the company contracted SpaceX to launch a third satellite next year.
SpaceX is one of the few companies that takes a different approach. Instead of relying on a few large satellites, they build their own “constellations” of small satellites that beam Internet from a lower earth orbit. SpaceX launched its first 60 satellites in 2019 & currently has more than 1,800 satellites providing Internet access to more than 100,000 terminal in 14 countries. The company plans to eventually launch 30,000 satellites, causing outcry from astronomers & others who said so many objects will clutter humanity’s view of night sky.
Elon Musk strongly denies these claims, stating that SpaceX’s satellites will not impede the view of the night sky.
Experts responded by noting that Musk’s claims were hypocritical at best. In an interview with Sky at Night, John McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who created a simulation of what the completed mega constellation will look like, noted that many of the satellites Musk mentioned are in high orbit & not contribute to light pollution like SpaceX technologies will.
But despite these objections (and many others), the Starlink project continues to move forward.
ELON MUSK is not the only billionaire that tries to win a tranche of the next satellite internet market. Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has its own broadband satellite based program. The company’s Kuiper Project plans to launch its first satellites by the end of next year, according to a press release from the company. Amazon contracted ABL Space Systems to put the satellites into orbit. It plans to build a constellation of 3,236 satellites. The British company OneWeb has already launched 182 of the 640 satellites planned.
It is unclear how quickly companies targeting low-earth orbit constellations will replace established players in the satellite internet market. In January, Delta Airlines selected industry mainstay viasat, to provide Internet access to a large part of its fleet. Viasat says its next geostationary satellite will octuple its current capacity. The company also plans to launch its network of around 300 low orbit satellites.
Will tens of thousands of satellites benefit-those of us on Earth? The odds are good, according to Mark Buell, North American regional vice president of the Internet Society, which advocates an open Internet. He stated that the Vox recoded that “[i] competition in market in the coming years is likely to guide the innovation that will increase the quality of services and, ideally, more affordable prices.