SpaceX is sending live video of a scene in space so weird that Elon Musk struggled to describe it.
The state company plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, tonight between 10:30 pm and midnight ET, and broadcast the event live.
Stacked inside the rocket's top will be 60 next-generation satellites – the first of a global internet network called Starlink, which in its last form boasts 12,000 such satellites. It is almost seven times the number of operational satellites currently surrounding the Earth today.
Each Starlink satellite is about the size of a desk and weighs about 500 kg (227 kg). All in all, the satellites and the most important parts of the upper linkage will enter more than 1
"This is the heaviest payload Falcon 9 has ever launched," Musk said during a conversation with reporters on Wednesday night. In fact, it is the heaviest payload SpaceX has ever tried to launch, including with its behemoth Falcon Heavy rocket.
Distributing five dozen spacecrafts in one round is not a trivial task, and SpaceX plans to showcase the process during a live webcast on YouTube, which we've embedded below.
& # 39; This will look a bit strange & # 39;
] SpaceX has great experience in launching many satellites simultaneously. In December, for example, it put 64 satellites in space.
But this mission used heavy spring loaded mechanisms to eject each satellite, and most spacecraft were much smaller and brighter than the Starlink satellites. (SpaceX also used a subcontractor to build the satellite-based stack for the mission.)
To keep the weight and complexity of Thursday's own mission to a minimum, Musk says that SpaceX engineers are trying to be something unusual.
"There will be a very slow deployment, where we rotate the scene," said Musk.
The exact arrangement of the Starlink satellites will give each their own unique inertia like the rocket spin, Musk said. This will cause the spacecraft to float out and away from its slots in the stack at different times and speeds.
"It seems like spreading a card on a table," Musk said. "This looks like strange compared to regular satellite buildings."
He added that the satellites can touch or bump into each other during the installation, "but it will be very slow and the satellites are designed to handle it."
Musk said each Starlink then starts up and starts shooting its Hall thruster or ion engine. The engines will push out cryptographic gears to slowly and effectively fly from 273 miles (440 kilometers) to 342 miles (550 kilometers) across the earth.
From there, SpaceX plans to test its Starlink internet concept by talking to Starlink spacecraft from ground stations and directing data from one satellite to another.
What's in store for Starlink
In the future, every Starlink satellite will link to four others via laser beams, so that the Starlink network can move internet traffic near the speed of light in vacuum. That speed is almost 50% faster than fiber optic cables can transmit data on the ground, which means that Starlink can have a huge speed advantage.
Musk said SpaceX has "sufficient capital" to make Starlink work, and also suggested that SpaceX can start earning money from Starlink before it stops launching all 12,000 scheduled satellites by 2027 (the deadline that FCC licenses require).
"In order for the system to be economically feasible, it's really about 1000 satellites," Musk said. "There are obviously many satellites, but it's far less than 10,000 or 12,000."
The overall satellites also mean that Starlink could offer almost unbeatable broadband internet access to most regions of the world, such as aircraft, ships and even cars (perhaps Tesla electric cars begin). Musk has said several times that he would like to make such access to the internet affordable, especially in areas with little or no web service.
Mark Handley, a data network researcher at University College London who has studied Starlink, previously told Business Insider that the project can affect the lives of "potentially all" by bringing high-speed and pervasive broadband to most parts of the world.
"This is the most exciting new network we've seen in a long time," Handley said.
Watch the first Starlink task live
Musk said SpaceX will start using the 60 Starlink satellites about an hour after launch tonight.
You can tune in to SpaceX's live broadcast below and start about 15 minutes before shutdown, which is currently scheduled sometime between 9 am and 6 pm. 10.30. ET and midnight.