Extra Crunch roundup: Security data lakes, China vs. Starlink, ExtraHop’s $900M exit

News broke this morning that Bain Capital Private Equity and Crosspoint Capital Partners are purchasing Seattle-based network security startup ExtraHop.

Part of the Network Detection and Response (NDR) market, ExtraHop’s security solutions are for companies that manage assets in the cloud and on-site, “something that could be useful as more companies find themselves in that in-between state,” report Ron Miller and Alex Wilhelm.

Just one year ago, ExtraHop was closing in on $100 million in ARR and was considering an IPO, so Ron and Alex spoke to ExtraHop CTO and co-founder Jesse Rothstein to learn more about how (and why) the deal came together.

Have a great week, and thanks for reading!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


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Xometry is taking its excess manufacturing capacity business public

Image Credits: Prasit photo (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

Xometry, a Maryland-based service that connects companies with manufacturers with excess production capacity around the world, filed an S-1 form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week announcing its intent to become a public company.

As the global supply chain tightened during the pandemic in 2020, a company that helped find excess manufacturing capacity was likely in high demand.

But growth aside, it’s clear that Xometry is no modern software business, at least from a revenue-quality profile.

It’s time for security teams to embrace security data lakes

Image of a man jumping from a floating dock into a lake.

Image Credits: Malorny (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The average corporate security organization spends $18 million annually but is largely ineffective at preventing breaches, IP theft and data loss. Why?

The fragmented approach we’re currently using in the security operations center (SOC) does not work. It’s time to replace the security information and event management (SIEM) approach with security data lakes.

The reduced reliance on the SIEM is well underway, along with many other changes. The SIEM is not going away overnight, but its role is changing rapidly, and it has a new partner in the SOC — the security data lake.

 

China’s drive to compete against Starlink for the future of orbital internet

There has been a wave of businesses over the past several years hoping to offer broadband internet delivered from thousands of satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO), providing coverage of most of the earth’s surface.

In tandem with the accelerated deployment of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation in 2020, China has rapidly responded in terms of policy, financing and technology. While still in early development, a “Chinese answer to Starlink,” SatNet, and the associated GuoWang are likely to compete in certain markets with Starlink and others while also fulfilling a strategic purpose from a government perspective.

With considerable backing from very high-level actors, we are likely to see the rollout of a Red Star(link) over China (and the rest of the world) over the coming years.

This SPAC is betting that a British healthcare company can shake up the US market

Babylon Health, a British health tech company, is pursuing a U.S. listing via a blank-check company, or SPAC.

While we wait for Robinhood’s IPO, The Exchange dove into its fundraising history, its product, its numbers and, bracing ourselves for impact, its projections.

The hidden benefits of adding a CTO to your board

A CTO brings a strategic advantage

Image Credits: Westend61 / Getty Images

Conventional wisdom says your board should include a few CEOs who can offer informed advice from an entrepreneur’s perspective, but adding a technical leader to the mix creates real upside, according to Abby Kearns, chief technology officer at Puppet.

Beyond their engineering experience, CTOs can help founders set realistic timelines, help identify pain points and bring what Kearns calls “pragmatic empathy” to high-pressure situations.

They can also be an effective advocate for founder teams who need help explaining why a launch is delayed or new engineering hires are badly needed.

“A CTO understands the nuts and bolts,” says Kearns.

6 career options for ex-founders seeking their next adventure

6 options for ex-founders looking for their next venture

Image Credits: Marie LaFauci / Getty Images

As someone with “founder” on your resume, you face a greater challenge when trying to get a traditional salaried job.

You’ve already shown that you really want to lead a company, not just rise up the ladder, which means some employers are less likely to hire you.

So what should you do? Especially if your life partner and/or bank account are burnt out on the income volatility of startups?

Here are six options for ex-founders planning their next move.

How bottom-up sales helped Expensify blaze the path for SaaS

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

In the fifth and final part of Expensify’s EC-1, Anna Heim explores how the company built its business, true to form, in an unexpected way.

“You’d expect an expense management company to have a large sales department and advertise through all kinds of channels to maximize customer acquisition, Anna writes. But “Expensify just doesn’t do what you think it should.

“Keeping in mind this company’s propensity to just stick to its guts, it’s not much of a surprise that it got to more than $100 million in annual recurring revenue and millions of users with a staff of 130, some contractors, and an almost non-existent sales team.”

How is that much growth possible without a sales team? Word of mouth.

#china, #extra-crunch-roundup, #health, #space, #spacex, #starlink, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital

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China’s drive to compete against Starlink for the future of orbital internet

There has been a wave of businesses over the past several years hoping to offer broadband internet delivered from thousands of satellites in low-earth orbit (LEO), providing coverage of most of the earth’s surface.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen excitement in the category. Companies and people that you have heard of — Bill Gates and Motorola, to name a few — invested billions of dollars into this business model two decades ago in an adventure that ended in many bankruptcies and very few people connected to the internet from low-earth orbit. Yet, here we are 20 years later, witnessing billionaires from Elon Musk to Jeff Bezos and entities from SoftBank to the United Kingdom investing billions into broadband from space in a gold rush that began around 2015, and has only accelerated since the beginning of 2020.

During that same period, we have seen a parallel ascendance of China’s space capabilities. In tandem with the accelerated deployment of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation in 2020, China has rapidly responded in terms of policy, financing, and technology, including most notably the creation of a “Chinese answer to Starlink”, namely constellation operating company China SatNet, and the associated GuoWang (国网, or National Net(work)) constellation.

While still in early development, SatNet and GuoWang are likely to compete in certain markets with Starlink and others, while also fulfilling what may be a similar strategic purpose from a government perspective. With considerable backing from very high-level actors, we are likely to see the rollout of a Red Star(link) over China (and the rest of the world) over the coming several years.

The rapid rise of Starlink

China’s LEO constellation plans cannot be understood in a vacuum. Like many other areas of high-tech investment, China’s actions here are partially reactive to developments in the West. The acceleration and expansion of Western LEO constellations in recent years — most notably Starlink — has been an accelerant to China’s own plans.

#asia, #china, #government, #satellites, #space, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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SpaceX launched 52 more Starlink satellites to orbit on Saturday

SpaceX successfully launched another 52 Starlink internet broadband satellites into orbit on Saturday, less than one week after it sent up the last batch. A small satellite from startup Capella Space and a Tyvak observation satellite also hitched a ride on the launch, which took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday evening.

The launch used a veteran Falcon 9 booster that’s seen seven previous launch and landings, including during three Starlink missions. It departed from its launch pad at 6:56 PM ET (3:56 PM PT) and returned to Earth approximately nine minutes later. The rocket landed vertically on SpaceX’s autonomous drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean.

The launch company has now sent over 530 Starlink satellites to space since March, and all of them on reused rockets. Reusability is a key factor toward making the launches as cost-effective as possible, a factor that is especially important as SpaceX is both the launch provider and customer of the Starlink service. As a consequence, SpaceX has been able to rapidly accelerate its Starlink launch program, with 28 launches under its belt so far. At least one additional launch is likely in the works for later this month.

The company said earlier this month that it had received “over half a million” pre-order reservations for Starlink broadband service so far. Starlink is available in beta to customers in six countries: Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Mexico and Canada. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the company aims to have its low Earth orbit broadband internet network operational across nearly the entire globe as early as the end of 2021.

#aerospace, #falcon-9, #space, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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Google Cloud teams up with SpaceX’s Starlink for enterprise connectivity at network’s edge

SpaceX’s bourgeoning Starlink satellite-based broadband internet service just got a big boost from a significant new partner: Google Cloud. Thanks to a new partnership between the two, SpaceX will now be locating Starlink ground stations right within Google’s existing data centers, providing the Starlink network with direct access to ground-based network infrastructure to help facilitate network connections for customers who are on the edges of the footprint of existing network access.

Starlink’s entire aim is to provide reliable, broadband-quality connections to areas that have typically be hard or impossible to reach with legacy ground-based network infrastructure, including cellular networks. The tie-up with Google means that not only will business and public sector customers taking advantage of that new network reach have access to internet connections, but also to cloud-based infrastructure and applications, including AI and machine learning capabilities, analytics and more.

This should not only bolster Starlink’s reliability in terms of its consumer clients, but also provide key capabilities for serving enterprise customers — another key target demographic for the growing Starlink business, though much of the public focus thus far for Starlink’s roll-out has been on residential access across its expanding beta.

Google and Starlink expect to begin to become available to enterprise customers soon — sometime pin the “second half of 2021” according to a press release issued by the companies.

SpaceX has been very aggressive in building out the Starlink network in the past few months, launching 480 in just around there months. All that in-space infrastructure build out could well have been pre-amble to this collaboration and enterprise-focused service launch, in addition to helping SpaceX expand Starlink consumer service quality and availability.

#artificial-intelligence, #broadband, #google, #google-cloud, #internet-access, #machine-learning, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc, #telecommunications

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SpaceX launches and lands a Falcon 9 rocket booster a record 10th time

SpaceX has launched another 60 Starlink satellites — making 180 delivered to orbit in under two weeks — but the launch early Sunday morning was more notable because it set a new, key record for Falcon 9 rocket reusability. This marked the 10th flight of the first-stage rocket booster used for the launch, which sets a record for re-use for SpaceX as the rocket booster with the most successful mission under its belt.

The launch took place at 2:42 AM EDT, flying from Cape Canaveral in Florida. SpaceX also successfully returned the booster to its drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean for a tenth successful landing for the rocket, too, making it a record-setter in that regard as well, and setting up the possibility that it could fly yet again. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said it could be “possible” for a Falcon 9 booster to fly “100+” times with servicing and component replacement.

This Falcon 9 has previously flown on missions including the original uncrewed demonstration mission of Crew Dragon, SpaceX’s astronaut spacecraft, and seven prior Starlink launches. SpaceX has shown just how reusable its rockets are with its aggressive Starlink launch schedule, most of which have employed rocket boosters that have flown a number of missions before, including other launches for the broadband internet megaconstellation.

Since SpaceX is both launch provider and customer on Starlink, it’s actually crucial for the company to realize as many cost savings as possible during its frequent flights building the network of low Earth orbit satellites. Re-use of the boosters is a key ingredient, and one where the cost savings definitely accrue over time. Musk has previously said that the economics are such that for its external customer flights, it’s at about “even” on the second use of a booster, and “ahead” in terms of costs by the third. During its Starlink launch program, SpaceX has repeatedly set and broken its own reusability records, indicating a key means of keeping the costs of building out its in-space satellite infrastructure is using flight-proven boosters as much as possible.

This is the 27th Starlink launch thus far, and SpaceX has another planned just six days from now on May 15, with at least one more likely in the works for later this month after that. The company hopes to have its broadband network built out to the point where it has global reach by the end of this year.

#broadband, #elon-musk, #falcon, #falcon-9, #outer-space, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites, claims over 500,000 service pre-orders so far

SpaceX has launched 60 more of its Starlink internet broadband satellites — on ‘Star Wars Day,’ no less, and only five days after it launched the last batch. The company has now delivered 420 Starlink satellites since the beginning of March, a sum that SpaceX CEO and founder must not be aware of because he definitely would’ve tweeted about it by now if he was.

This launch took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 3:01 PM ET (12:01 PM PT), and used a re-used Falcon 9 booster that had flown 8 times previously. That booster also landed back on SpaceX’s floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, tying the record for SpaceX’s reusable flight program in terms of flying resumed boosters, which it just set in March. This is the company’s 115th Falcon 9 launch so far.

SpaceX also shared updated figures around its Starlink consumer hardware, which is used to transmit and receive signal from the constellation for broadband service. The company has received “over half a million” pre-order reservations for its service so far, which includes advance deposits on the hardware.

That strong demand helps explain why there appears to be such a significant backlog in terms of fulfilling orders for Starlink. Customers looking to user the service can sign up via SpaceX’s website, and place a pre-order for the kit, which induces the Starlink receiver, a router, power supplies and mounting hardware for your home.

The service is available to beta customers in six countries thus far, including Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the U.S. and Canada, but the goal is to continue to expand coverage to achieve near-global reach by the end of 2021 in terms of service availability, with a number of additional launches planned throughout the rest of the year.

#broadband, #falcon-9, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites

SpaceX has launched another batch of Starlink satellites, adding 60 more to the constellation on orbit. This is the 24th Starlink launch in total, and means SpaceX has now sent up over 1,500 Starlink spacecraft, with around 1,438 of those still in operation. This is the first Starlink launch since April 7 — which, surprisingly, is the biggest gap between these launches in quite a while.

This year, SpaceX’s overall launch calendar has been dominated by Starlink launches, as the company seeks to expand the availability, quality and coverage of its low Earth orbit broadband internet network. SpaceX also opened up availability of Starlink service this year, and now seems to be mostly supply-constrained on the consumer receiver terminal side, rather than necessarily on network capacity or regional ability.

Regarding that few week gap in the Starlink launch pace, it’s not like SpaceX was slacking in the meantime; the launcher sent up its second crew of astronauts destined for the International Space Station in a flight just last week. Plus, it has two three additional Starlink launches tentatively scheduled to happen in May.

This latest launch took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 11:44 PM EDT (8:44 PM PDT) on Wednesday, and it used a flight-proven Falcon 9 first stage booster, which was used on six prior missions, including four Starlink launches.

#aerospace, #broadband, #falcon-9, #florida, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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FCC lets SpaceX cut satellite altitude to improve Starlink speed and latency

A SpaceX Starlink user terminal, also known as a satellite dish, seen against a city's skyline.

Enlarge / A SpaceX Starlink user terminal/satellite dish. (credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX today was granted permission to use a lower orbit for Starlink satellites, as regulators agreed with SpaceX that the change will improve broadband speed and latency while making it easier to minimize orbital debris. In granting SpaceX’s request, the Federal Communications Commission dismissed opposition from Viasat, Hughes, Dish Network, OneWeb, the Amazon subsidiary known as Kuiper, and other satellite companies that claimed the change would cause too much interference with other systems.

In 2018, SpaceX received FCC approval to launch 4,425 broadband satellites at orbits of 1,110 km to 1,325 km. Today’s FCC order granting SpaceX’s license-change request lowers the altitude for 2,814 of the satellites, letting them orbit in the 540-570 km range. Today’s FCC order will also let SpaceX use a lower elevation angle for antennas on user terminals and gateway Earth stations.

“Based on our review, we agree with SpaceX that the modification will improve the experience for users of the SpaceX service, including in often-underserved polar regions,” the FCC order said. “We conclude that the lower elevation angle of its earth station antennas and lower altitude of its satellites enables a better user experience by improving speeds and latency.”

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#biz-it, #fcc, #policy, #satellite-broadband, #spacex, #starlink

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Dishy McFlatface to become “fully mobile,” allowing Starlink use away from home

A Starlink satellite dish sits on the ground in a clearing in the middle of a forest.

Enlarge / A Starlink satellite dish in the Idaho panhandle’s Coeur d’Alene National Forest. (credit: Wandering-coder)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk expects the Starlink satellite broadband service to be “fully mobile” later in 2021, allowing customers to use the satellite dishes away from home.

“Yeah, should be fully mobile later this year, so you can move it anywhere or use it on an RV or truck in motion. We need a few more satellite launches to achieve comp[l]ete coverage & some key software upgrades,” Musk wrote on Twitter Thursday.

SpaceX revealed a portion of its mobile plans last month when it asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to deploy a modified version of its user terminal to moving vehicles. But while that application is for a not-yet-released version of the terminal with “mountings that allow them to be installed on vehicles, vessels, and aircraft,” Musk’s comment about Starlink being “fully mobile” later this year was in reference to the standard terminal that has been deployed to beta customers the past few months.

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#biz-it, #satellite-broadband, #spacex, #starlink

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SpaceX to keep Starlink pricing simple, exit beta when network is “reliable”

A black-and-white logo over a white-and-black logo.

Enlarge / SpaceX Starlink logo. (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images )

The Starlink broadband network will probably stick with one price instead of offering different tiers of service, SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell said yesterday.

“I don’t think we’re going to do tiered pricing to consumers. We’re going to try to keep it as simple as possible and transparent as possible, so right now there are no plans to tier for consumers,” Shotwell said, according to a CNBC article. Shotwell spoke during a panel discussion at the Satellite 2021 conference.

SpaceX has been charging $99 a month for the Starlink beta service, plus $499 upfront for the user terminal/satellite dish, mounting tripod, and router. Other satellite and terrestrial broadband services typically charge different prices for different speeds, and many of them impose a data cap and charge extra fees to those who exceed the limit.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#biz-it, #spacex, #starlink

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SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites, now at 300 launched in just over one month

SpaceX has launched another batch of Starlink satellites, keeping up its rapid pace of launches for the broadband constellation it’s deploying in low Earth orbit. This now makes 300 Starlink satellites launched since March 4, with 60 on each of five flights between then and now.

The most recent launch before this one happened on March 24, with prior flights on March 14, March 11 and March 4 , respectively. That pace is intentionally fast, since SpaceX has said it aims to launch a total of 1,500 Starlink satellites over the course of this calendar year. Before that especially busy month, SpaceX also flew four other Starlink missions, including a shared ride on SpaceX’s first dedicated rideshare mission that also carried satellites for other customers.

In total, SpaceX has now launched 1,443 satellites for its Starlink constellation. That doesn’t reflect the total number of satellites on orbit, however, as a handful of those earlier satellites have been deorbited as planned. In total, the eventual planned sizer fo the constellation is expected to include up to 42,000 spacecraft based on current FCC frequency spectrum filings.

SpaceX recently signed a new agreement with NASA that outlines how the two organizations will avoid close approach or collision events between their respective spacecraft. NASA has measures it requires all launchers to follow in order to avoid these kinds of incidents, but the scale and frequency of SpaceX’s Starlink missions necessitated an additional, more extensive agreement.

This launch also included a landing of the Falcon 9 booster used, its seventh so far. The booster touched down as intended on SpaceX’s floating landing pad in the Atlantic Ocean, and will be refurbished for another potential reuse. SpaceX is also going to be looking to recover its fairing halves at sea, which are the two cargo covering shields that encase the satellites during take-off. The company actually just decommissioned two ships it had used to try to catch these out of mid-air as they fell slowed by parachutes, but it’s still looking to retrieve them from the ocean after splashdown for re-use.

Image Credits: SpaceX

#aerospace, #broadband, #federal-communications-commission, #outer-space, #satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites, making 240 launched this month alone

SpaceX has added yet more Starlink satellites to its existing constellation on orbit, with a successful delivery of 60 spacecraft this morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The mission used a Falcon 9 with a flight-prove booster that served on five previous launches, and a cargo fairing cover made up of two re-used halves from past flights.

This is the fourth Starlink launch in under a month, with prior batches of 60 sent up on March 14, March 11 and March 4, respectively. In total, that means it’s sent up 240 satellites in about three weeks, which is actually around on par with the number satellites than the second-largest commercial constellation operator, Planet, has in space in total.

The stated goal for SpaceX is to have launched 1,500 Starlink satellites in 2020, and given its progress, it looks on track to make that target at the current launch pace. Starlink should eventually grow to include as many as 10,000 or more active satellites in low-Earth orbit, but the near-term goal is to continue expanding geographic coverage of its broadband internet service to additional countries and customers.

Right now, it seems like the beta service rollout is more hardware-constrained on the ground component side, since SpaceX opened up pre-orders to anyone in a geography it services earlier this year. Customers signing up now for the Starlink antenna and modem kit are getting delivery times that extend out to the end of this year, even in areas where service is known to be available and performing well for existing beta users.

Starlink could become a massive revenue driver for SpaceX once it’s fully operational, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the plan is to eventually spin the company out once it’s past the initial infrastructure investment phase and revenues have stabilized. So far, customer seem to be having a positive experience with the network in terms of speed and reliability relative to other rural broadband solutions, but the next big test will come once the network is experience heavy load in terms of customer volume.

#broadband, #ceo, #elon-musk, #falcon-9, #florida, #hyperloop, #outer-space, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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NASA and SpaceX sign a special info sharing agreement to help avoid Starlink collisions

NASA doesn’t just let anyone launch whatever they want to space without checking in with the agency about potential impacts to its own assets on orbit, including the International Space Station (ISS). The agency has a standard set of guidelines around so-called “Conjunction Assessment,” which is basically determine the risk that a close approach between in-space objects might occur, which in turn could potentially result in a collision. This assessment determines when and where something flies, as you might expect.

Today, NASA published a new agreement between itself and SpaceX that goes above and beyond its standard Conjunction Assessment practices. The special agreement, which exists under the mandate of the Space Act that allows NASA to work with any company in order to fulfill its mandate, is defined as a ‘nonreimbursable’ one, or just one in which no money changes hands, which is designed to benefit both parties involved.

It effectively lays out that because SpaceX operates Starlink, which is the largest existing on-orbit constellation of spacecraft, and which is growing at a rapid pace, and because each of these is equipped with the ability to maneuver itself autonomously in response to mission parameters, there needs to exist a deeper ongoing partnership between NASA and SpaceX for conjunction avoidance.

Accordingly, the agreement outlines the ways in which communication and information sharing between NASA and SpaceX will exceed what has been typically been expected. For NASA’s part, it’ll be providing detailed and accurate info about its planned missions in advance to SpaceX so that they can use that to properly program Starlink’s automated avoidance measures whenever a mission is happening where NASA assets might cross paths with the constellation. It’ll also be working directly with SpaceX on improving its its ability to assess and avoid any incidents, and will be providing technical support on how SpaceX might better mitigate “photometric brightness,” or the reflectivity of its Starlink spacecraft.

Meanwhile, SpaceX will be responsible for ensuring its Starlink satellites take ‘evasive action’ to ‘mitigate close approaches and avoid collisions with all NASA assets.” It’ll also be required to provide time frame ‘cut-outs’ for periods when Starlink satellites aren’t able to employ their collision avoidance, which mostly occurs during the phase right after they’re launch when they’re still being activated and put into their target orbits.

Another key point in the agreement is that SpaceX plan Starlink launches so the they’re at minimum either 5km above or below the highest and lowest points of the International Space Station’s orbit as it makes its way around the Earth. Finally, SpaceX is also expected to share its own analysis of the effectiveness of its satellite dimming techniques, so the agency can adjust its own guidance on the subject accordingly.

The full agreement is embedded below, but the main takeaway is that NASA clearly wants SpaceX to be a better low-Earth partner and citizen as the size of its constellation pushes past the 1,200 mark, on track to grow to around 1,500 or more by year’s end. Also, NASA’s putting a lot of trust and responsibility in SpaceX’s hands – basically it’s laying out that Starlink’s built-in autonomous capabilities can avoid any really danger that might arise. The way NASA has structured this document also leaves open the possibility that it could repurpose it for other constellation operators – a growing need given the number of companies working on networks of low-Earth orbit spacecraft.

#aerospace, #collision-avoidance, #falcon-9, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #policy, #satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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SpaceX flies Falcon 9 rocket booster for a record 9th time, delivers 3rd batch of Starlink satellites in two weeks

SpaceX has delivered another 60 Starlink satellites to orbit — meaning it has sent 180 in total to join its 1,000+ strong constellation in the past two weeks alone. Today’s launch also set a record for SpaceX for its Falcon 9 rocket reusability program, since it was the ninth flight and ninth landing for this particular first-stage booster.

The booster was used previously on a variety of missions, including five prior Starlink launches, as well as the Demo-1 mission for the company’s Crew Dragon capsule, which was the uncrewed test flight that proved it would work as intended from launch all the way to docking with the International Space Station and then returning back to Earth.

SpaceX set its prior reusability record in January this year – another Starlink launch – using this very same refurbished first stage, which had just flown in December of last year before that. SpaceX not only wants to continue to show that it can re-fly these boosters more and more times, but also that it can turn them around quickly for their next mission, since both speed and volume will have a significant impact on launch costs.

Rocket reuse is of particular importance when it comes to these Starlink missions, which are happening with increasing frequency as SpaceX pushes to expand the availability of its Starlink broadband internet service globally. As mentioned, this is the third launch of 60 satellites for the constellation in just 10 days — the most recent launch happened just Thursday, and the first of this trio took place the Thursday before that.

From here, expect SpaceX to just continue to launch at roughly this pace for the next little while, since it has two more planned Starlink launches before March is over, including one tentatively set for next Sunday. As the company is its own customer for these missions, it’s eating the cost of the launches (at least until Starlink starts operating beyond its current beta and bringing in more revenue) so re-flying boosters is a good way to help mitigate the overall spend.

#aerospace, #broadband, #elon-musk, #falcon, #falcon-9, #hyperloop, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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SpaceX launches 60 new Starlink satellites just one week after the last batch

SpaceX now has 60 more Starlink satellites in orbit – it launched its latest full complement of the internet broadband spacecraft early this morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Just last Thursday, SpaceX launched its last batch of 60, and this past week it also confirmed that it’s expanding its beta of the Starlink internet service to additional markets around the world, including Germany and New Zealand.

This is the 21st Starlink launch overall, and the sixth this year, with as many as three more launches tentatively planned for later this month, weather and schedule permitting. The simple reason it’s pursuing such an aggressive launch pace is that the more satellites it adds to its constellation in low-Earth orbit, the more customers it can sign up and serve. Starlink is currently in beta, but it’s now open to anyone to sign up depending on geography, with SpaceX taking a deposit and offering a rough timeline on projected availability.

So far, Starlink service is open to people in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Germany and New Zealand, but the plan is to achieve “near global coverage of the populated world” by the end of this year. Adding satellites to the constellation not only helps expand geographic reach, but also improves network performance. SpaceX says that currently, the beta should provide speeds ranging from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, with latency falling between 20ms to 40ms, but that both of those metrics should improve over the coming months as more spacecraft join the network, and as SpaceX rolls out additional ground stations.

Already, there are anecdotal reports that Starlink’s service bests the competition in rural and hard-to-reach areas where ground infrastructure for alternative services like cellular internet, or legacy satellite from geosynchronous spacecraft-based networks have been disappointing.

This launch also included a successful controlled landing of the booster used to propel the Falcon 9 rocket that carried the Starlink satellites to orbit. SpaceX landed the first stage, which flew previously on five missions, including SpaceX’s first human spaceflight mission, back at its autonomous drone landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

#aerospace, #broadband, #canada, #falcon, #falcon-9, #florida, #germany, #internet-service, #internet-service-providers, #new-zealand, #outer-space, #satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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Max Q: Starship’s good landing (and less good post-landing)

Max Q is a weekly newsletter from TechCrunch all about space. Sign up here to receive it weekly on Mondays in your inbox.

Sometimes even the biggest successes look like failures on video. That’s the theme of this week, because the biggest news by far was SpaceX’s test launch of its latest Starship prototype in South Texas.

It looked fake – but the fireball proved it wasn’t

SpaceX’s test flight was a launch of the 10th Starship prototype to a height of around 32,000 feet, at which point it used its Raptor engines to flip into a flop maneuver and then fall back to Earth in a roughly horizontal orientation, before re-lighting its engines very near the ground and flipping back vertical for a soft landing. All of which actually happened as described, for the first time, causing many TC readers to suggest it was an elaborate CG fake.

It wasn’t – after SpaceX cameras cut away, but while others were luckily still filming, the SN10 prototype met the same fiery end as the last two SpaceX rockets to do the high-flying act. The explosion that totally destroyed the rocket happened a few minutes after it sat stationary post-landing, and while it maybe didn’t provide the best optics, the real takeaway is that SpaceX proved the crazy landing maneuver Starship will use for reusability actually works in real-world conditions.

Starlink’s UT antenna for residential customers.

SpaceX kinda needs the Starship to start working more and more often, because the big new rocket has a lot of work to do. As the space company continues to launch its Starlink satellites, including 60 more this past week, it really wants to be launching up to 400 at a time using Starship’s generous cargo compartment. And there are humans waiting in the wings for a Starship ride, too: Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who bought out an entire Starship mission for a trip around the Moon and back in 2023 has opened applications for 8 other passengers who will join him – at his expense.

The SPAC man closes out his personal stake

Chamath Palihapitiya, the Chairman of Virgin Galactic, has sold his entire personal stake in the company after ushering it into the public markets last year via a SPAC merger with his Social Capital Hedosophia. Palihapitiya still retains a 6.2% ownership stake via that vehicle, in partnership with Ian Osborne, but his own independent holdings are now at zero.

Chamath Palihapitiya

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Palihapitiya says he “remains as dedicated as ever to Virgin Galactic’s team, mission and prospects,” and that the only reason he liquidated his position was to provide funds for a climate-focused investment he’ll be taking the lid off soon. Public market investors seem not to have retained the same confidence, however, with price down consistently since news of the Chairman’s sale came out last week.

Early Stage

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SpaceX plans Starlink broadband for cars, boats, and planes

Off-road vehicle driving up a road on a hill on a foggy morning.

Enlarge / Cars could eventually get satellite Internet from SpaceX Starlink. (credit: Getty Images | Ozgur Donmaz)

SpaceX on Friday asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to deploy Starlink satellite broadband to passenger cars and other moving vehicles.

The application describes SpaceX’s plans for Earth Stations in Motion (ESIMs) for automobiles, ships, and aircraft. SpaceX said it is “seek[ing] authority to deploy and operate these earth stations… throughout the United States and its territories… in the territorial waters of the United States and throughout international waters worldwide, and… on US-registered aircraft operating worldwide and non-US-registered aircraft operating in US airspace.”

“Granting this application would serve the public interest by authorizing a new class of ground-based components for SpaceX’s satellite system that will expand the range of broadband capabilities available to moving vehicles throughout the United States and to moving vessels and aircraft worldwide,” SpaceX told the FCC. Internet users are no longer “willing to forego connectivity while on the move, whether driving a truck across the country, moving a freighter from Europe to a US port, or while on a domestic or international flight,” SpaceX said.

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SpaceX Starlink factory in Texas will speed up production of Dishy McFlatface

View of the SpaceX Starlink satellite dish, with the back panel taken off.

Enlarge / The SpaceX Starlink satellite dish partway through a teardown. (credit: Ken Keither)

SpaceX says it is building a factory in Austin, Texas, to design systems that will help make satellite dishes, Wi-Fi routers, and other equipment for its Starlink satellite broadband network. The news comes from a job posting for an automation and controls engineer position flagged in a story Tuesday by local news channel KXAN.

“To keep up with global demand, SpaceX is breaking ground on a new, state of the art manufacturing facility in Austin, TX,” the job posting said. “The Automation & Controls Engineer will play a key role as we strive to manufacture millions of consumer facing devices that we ship directly to customers (Starlink dishes, Wi-Fi routers, mounting hardware, etc).”

The factory apparently won’t make the dishes and routers on site but will instead design systems that improve the manufacturing process. “Specifically, they will design and develop control systems and software for production line machinery—ultimately tackling the toughest mechanical, software, and electrical challenges that come with high-volume manufacturing, all while maintaining a focus on flexibility, reliability, maintainability, and ease of use,” the job posting said.

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SpaceX launches 60 new Starlink satellites, while Starship moves closer to being able to launch up to 400 at a time

SpaceX has launched another batch of its Starlink satellites – the usual complement of 60 of the low Earth orbit spacecraft, which will join the more than 1,000 already making up the existing constellation. This is the fifth launch of Starlink satellites for SpaceX this year, and the 20th overall.

Earlier this year, SpaceX opened up Starlink access to anyone in a current or planned service area via a pre-order reservation system with a refundable up-front deposit. The company aims to continue launches like this one apace throughout 2021 in order to get the constellation to the point where it can serve customers over a much larger portion of the globe. SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell has previously said that the company expects it should have coverage over much of the globe at a constellation size of around 1,200 satellites, but the company has plans to launch more than 30,000 to fully build out its network capacity and speed.

While SpaceX is making good progress on Starlink with its Falcon 9 launcher, it’s also looking ahead to Starship as a key driver of the constellation’s growth. Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle currently under development in South Texas, will be able to deliver 400 Starlink satellites at a time to orbit, and it’s also being designed with full reusability and fast turnaround in mind.

The ability to launch more than six times as many satellites per mission would help SpaceX a lot in terms of the speed with which they can deploy the Starlink network, as well as the overall cost of the endeavor – assuming their cost projections about Starlink’s general affordability are even close to accurate once it becomes a high-volume production rocket. That’s definitely still at least a few years off, but SpaceX did mark a milestone on Wednesday that bodes well for its chances of making that happen.

The company’s latest Starship prototype performed its most successful test launch to date on Wednesday, taking off from SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas development site and flying to around 32,000 feet before executing a ‘flop’ maneuver and then reorienting itself for a soft vertical landing. The test rocket also blew up after sitting on the pad for just under 10 minutes, but despite that spectacular ending, the test proved out a lot of the basic engineering work that SpaceX needs to make Starship a reality.

Starlink is a huge, multi-year effort, so even if Starship is still a few years away from high-volume production and flight, it should still have a significant impact on the project overall. And Starlink, once operational and fully deployed, will require regular maintenance – individual satellites in the network are only really designed to be operational for ups to five years max, with regular replacements required to keep things running smoothly.


Early Stage is the premier “how-to” event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, legal, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in — there’s ample time included in each for audience questions and discussion.

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Dish tries to disrupt SpaceX’s Starlink plans as companies fight at FCC

Illustration of the Earth with lines representing a global network.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | skegbydave)

SpaceX and Dish Network are fighting at the Federal Communications Commission over Dish’s attempt to block a key designation that SpaceX’s Starlink division needs in order to get FCC broadband funding.

A SpaceX filing submitted yesterday said that Dish’s “baseless attempt” to block funding “would serve only to delay what matters most—connecting unserved Americans.” While Dish says it has valid concerns about interference in the 12 GHz band, SpaceX described Dish’s complaint to the FCC as a “facially spurious filing” that “is only the latest example of Dish’s abuse of Commission resources in its misguided effort to expropriate the 12 GHz band.”

The dispute is related to several FCC proceedings including one on a Starlink petition seeking designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) under the Communications Act. SpaceX needs this legal designation in some of the states where it won federal funding to deploy broadband in unserved areas. Dish asked the FCC to deny SpaceX the needed status in the 12 GHz band.

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SpaceX’s new $850 million raise confirmed in SEC filing

SpaceX hasn’t issue any public statement about the $850 million in fresh funding CNBC reported it raised last week, but a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published today confirms the round. SpaceX’s funding was said to value the company at around $74 billion, with a per-share value moon the round set at around $420.

Investment firm Sequoia led the considerable raise, and has now put over $600 million into the Elon Musk-led space company overall between this and a round it participated in in 2020, according to Bloomberg. CNBC’s report also said that a secondary sale of existing shares generated an additional $750 million in capital for the company, putting the total new money available for SpaceX’s use at $1.6 billion – not too far shy of the $2 billion it raised at a valuation of $46 billion last August.

That probably seems like a lot of money to raise in such less than a year. But few companies – private or otherwise – have the kind of capital needs of SpaceX. While it’s been able to build a thriving launch business on the money raised during the first part of its now nearly two-decade existence, that hasn’t slowed the rate at which it’s been undertaking big new projects with tremendous upfront costs.

Currently, SpaceX is rapidly building new prototypes of its Starship, a next-generation reusable rocket with multiple times the cargo capacity of its current Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 cargo nosecone. It has flown a number of prototypes – and lost two in the process due to missed landings. The company typically has at least two new prototypes under construction simultaneously, and had been operating at that pace for many months now, with a highly manual production process for both the rockets and the new engines that power them.

Meanwhile, it’s also building out Starlink – the global broadband internet satellite constellation that it wants to scale from its current 1,000+ size, to more than 12,000 for final, world-spanning coverage reach. To scale it quickly and get its service operational (which it now is, to select areas in North America), SpaceX has been launching its own dedicated Falcon 9 rockets with 60 Starlink satellites on each. Since the company is its own customer for the majority of those missions, they’re entirely operating expenditure. Musk has estimated that fully deploying Starlink will take around $10 billion.

Both of these projects – Starship and Starlink – carry massive upfront costs, but they also have a lot of potential long-term upside; hence the skyrocketing valuation as both efforts begin to produce positive results, between Starship’s high-altitude tests, and Starlink’s initial service availability.

#aerospace, #broadband, #elon-musk, #falcon, #falcon-9, #hyperloop, #north-america, #outer-space, #sequoia, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc, #u-s-securities-and-exchange-commission

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Musk: Starlink will hit 300Mbps and expand to “most of Earth” this year

A stack of 60 Starlink satellites being launched into space, with Earth in the background.

Enlarge / A stack of 60 Starlink satellites launched in 2019. (credit: SpaceX)

Starlink broadband speeds will double to 300Mbps “later this year,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter yesterday. SpaceX has been telling users to expect speeds of 50Mbps to 150Mbps since the beta began a few months ago.

Musk also wrote that “latency will drop to ~20ms later this year.” This is no surprise, as SpaceX promised latency of 20ms to 40ms during the beta and had said months ago that “we expect to achieve 16ms to 19ms by summer 2021.”

It sounds like the speed and latency improvements will roll out around the same time as when Starlink switches from beta to more widespread availability. Two weeks ago, Starlink opened preorders for service expected to be available in the second half of 2021, albeit with limited availability in each region.

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SpaceX reportedly raises $850M in new funding

SpaceX has raised a fresh round of funding, totalling $850 million, per a new report by CNBC, citing sources “familiar” with the matter. The new capital brings the total valuation of the company, which is still privately-held, to around $74 billion according to the report.

This is a massive round, by most standards – but not by SpaceX’s own. The space launch company, which was founded in 2002, has raised a total of over $6 billion to date including this latest injection, with a $2 billion venture round raised last August. That funding was invested at a valuation of $46 billion, meaning the company’s value, at least in the eyes of private investors, leapt considerably in the six months separating the two raises.

SpaceX has accomplished a lot between now and then, including building its Starlink broadband constellation to more than 1,000 active satellites; launching its first operational NASA crew to the International Space Station aboard a Dragon spacecraft; launching not one, but two high-altitude flight tests of its Starship spacecraft with relatively good results; and launched its first dedicated rideshare mission, demonstrating the viability of a big potential new group of launch customers.

While the company has achieved a lot on the back of its existing capital, its recent successes no doubt provided a good base to go out and get more. That’s likely going to go to good use, since it has plenty of work yet to do, like continued develop of Starship to prove out its space-worthiness, and the capital-intensive activity of building Starlink into a true, globe-spanning network.

#aerospace, #broadband, #falcon-9, #funding, #hyperloop, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #starship, #tc

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Just as a Falcon 9 rocket was due to land, the horizon began to glow

At left, a glow can be seen on the horizon just as a Falcon 9 rocket was due to land.

Enlarge / At left, a glow can be seen on the horizon just as a Falcon 9 rocket was due to land. (credit: SpaceX webcast)

A Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Monday night carrying its payload of 60 Starlink satellites. After dropping off the second stage in a parking orbit, the first stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere for a rendezvous with a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Alas, the rocket never made it to the boat. The company’s launch webcast included a video from the drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You, and a distant glow could be seen on the horizon when the rocket was due to land.

“We did get a little bright glow… no longer see a flame there… it does look like we did not land our booster,” said launch commentator Jessica Anderson, a manufacturing engineer at SpaceX. “It is unfortunate that we did not recover this booster, but our second stage is still on a nominal trajectory.”

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SpaceX launches 60 more satellites for its Starlink service on the heels of opening up access

SpaceX has launched yet another batch of Starlink satellites – a full complement of 60, the standard size for its current Falcon 9-based Starlink missions. This brings SpaceX’s total to just around 1,000 in active on orbit, taking into account the handful that were experimental or have been de-orbited to date. This follows SpaceX’s opening of orders for Starlink to anyone in a current or planned coverage zone.

Starlink is a global satellite-based data network powered by small, low-Earth orbit satellites. Historically, broadband satellites have been large, expensive spacecraft positioned much further out from Earth in a fixed orbit, providing service to a single coverage area. Because of their distance from Earth and the way they connect to base stations, coverage has been very high-latency and relatively inconsistent (which you’ll recognize if you’ve ever tried to use Wifi on a flight, for instance). SpaceX’s constellation-based approach sees the satellites positioned much closer to Earth, which improves latency, and also has the satellites orbiting Earth and handing off connections between one another, which in theory provides more consistent coverage – particularly as the size of the constellation grows.

Eventually, SpaceX intends to provide coverage globally from Starlink, with an emphasis on offering service to areas. where coverage has been weak due to ground infrastructure challenges in past. For now, however, coverage is limited, though SpaceX recently expanded its closed beta to an open one, with anyone able to sign up via the Starlink website after an address check, and place an order, including a deposit with the full amount for the hardware kit to be charged once it ships.

Starlink’s hardware includes a small satellite receiver dish for installation by the customer at their service address. The service itself costs $99 per month, while the equipment is $499 (one-time fee). This does seem steep, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter recently that the plan is to have the costs come down over time, once the significant initial investment is recouped. He also noted that the plan is still to spin off Starlink and have it IPO eventually, once the company “can predict cash flow reasonably well.”

#aerospace, #broadband, #ceo, #elon-musk, #falcon-9, #hyperloop, #internet-service-providers, #outer-space, #satellite, #small-satellite, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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SpaceX Starlink opens preorders but slots are limited in each region

Screenshot from the SpaceX Starlink pre-order website.

Enlarge / Screenshot from the Starlink order page, with the street address blotted out. (credit: SpaceX Starlink)

SpaceX this week began accepting preorders for Starlink broadband, asking for $99 deposits for service that would be available in the second half of this year.

To start the process, you can go to Starlink’s website and enter your email and service address. The overall cost is $499 for hardware, $50 for shipping and handling, and $99 for monthly service, plus tax. These are the same prices charged in the ongoing beta, which is limited to parts of the northern United States and southern Canada.

“Starlink is targeting coverage in your area in mid to late 2021,” the preordering system says. “Availability is limited. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis. You will receive a notification once your Starlink is ready to ship.”

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ISPs step up fight against SpaceX, tell FCC that Starlink will be too slow

A US map with lines and dots representing broadband access.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | imaginima)

More broadband-industry groups are lining up against SpaceX’s bid to get nearly $900 million in Federal Communications Commission funding. Two groups representing fiber and rural Internet providers yesterday submitted a report to the FCC claiming that Starlink will hit a capacity shortfall in 2028, when the satellite service may be required to hit a major FCC deployment deadline.

The study was commissioned by the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) and NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. They are urging the FCC to carefully examine whether SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service should receive money from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which recently awarded SpaceX $885.51 million over 10 years to bring Starlink to 642,925 homes and businesses in 35 states. The funding for SpaceX and other ISPs won’t be finalized until the FCC reviews their long-form applications, which were submitted after the reverse auction.

In a filing accompanying the study they commissioned, the FBA and NTCA told the FCC:

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Isotropic Systems raises $40 million for a satellite antenna that could make the most of new constellations

UK-based Isotropic Systems has raised a $40 million funding in an “oversubscribed” round that the startup says will help it get its next-generation broadband terminal to the production phase by its 2022 target. The funding, a Series B that brings the company’s total raised to $60 million, was led by SES and included participation form Boeing HorizonX, Space Angels, Orbital Ventures on the venture side, and that includes UK government grant support as well.

Isotropic’s business is centred around a new type of broadband terminal it’s developing that can communicate across multiple frequencies, making it possible for it to connect to more than one satellite network at the same time without any loss in signal quality or network speed for any individual connection. The final product would then offer ground connectivity to customers that could potentially maintain connections with more than one of the emerging satellite broadband networks in development, including those being set up by OneWeb, SpaceX, Intelsat, SES, Amazon and more.

The startup will be stand-in cup a 20,000 square-foot testing and prediction facility near Reading in the UK, and expects to have the first operational version of its ground terminal in production by 2022. If its final product works as advertised, it could be a major boon both for satellite network connectivity providers and for clients, since it would mean that customers who can afford the service don’t have to either select from among the available options, and can instead use one hardware solution to connect to multiple in order to take advantage of potential speed benefits, as well as network redundancy.

The benefits are obvious, provided the financials make sense. Imagine, for instance, using onboard wifi on an international flight. Typically, these networks have been unreliable to say the least. Coverage and quality drop-outs are common, and speeds tend to be weak in even the best of cases. Networks like Starlink aim to correct a lot of these legacy problems, but even better would be a solution that offers connection to multiple satellite networks simultaneously, switching between each connection as necessary to maintain the best possible network quality – and potentially combining available bandwidth when possible to boost speeds.

Isotropic’s potential customer list for such an offering spans military, government, and civilian markets, across both broadband and low-data IoT networks. This latest funding should help it prove its groundbreaking technology can attain the production scale and efficacy required to live up to its promise.

#aerospace, #amazon, #boeing, #broadband, #europe, #funding, #intelsat, #internet-service-providers, #national-broadband-plan, #oneweb, #reading, #recent-funding, #satellite-broadband, #satellites, #ses, #space, #spacecraft, #spacex, #starlink, #startups, #tc, #telecommunications, #uk-government, #united-kingdom

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SpaceX plans Starlink phone service, emergency backup, and low-income access

A stack of 60 Starlink satellites being launched into space, with Earth in the background.

Enlarge / A stack of 60 Starlink satellites launched in 2019. (credit: SpaceX)

A new SpaceX filing outlines plans for Starlink to offer phone service, emergency backup for voice calls, and cheaper plans for people with low incomes through the government’s Lifeline program.

The details are in Starlink’s petition to the Federal Communications Commission for designation as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC) under the Communications Act. SpaceX said it needs that legal designation in some of the states where it won government funding to deploy broadband in unserved areas. The ETC designation is also needed to get reimbursement from the FCC’s Lifeline program for offering discounts on telecom service to people with low incomes.

Starlink is in beta and costs $99 per month, plus a one-time fee of $499 for the user terminal, mounting tripod, and router. As we noted yesterday, the SpaceX filing also says Starlink now has over 10,000 users in the US and abroad. SpaceX should have capacity for several million customers in the US—the company has permission to deploy up to 1 million user terminals (i.e. satellite dishes) and is seeking FCC permission to raise the maximum-deployment level to 5 million user terminals.

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#biz-it, #phone-service, #policy, #spacex, #starlink

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SpaceX Starlink passes 10,000 users and fights opposition to FCC funding

A SpaceX Starlink user terminal, also known as a satellite dish, seen against a city's skyline.

Enlarge / A SpaceX Starlink user terminal/satellite dish. (credit: SpaceX)

Lobby groups for small ISPs are urging the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether SpaceX can deliver on its broadband promises and to consider blocking the satellite provider’s rural-broadband funding. Meanwhile, SpaceX says the Starlink beta is now serving high-speed broadband to 10,000 users.

SpaceX was one of the biggest winners in the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), winning $885.51 million over 10 years to bring Starlink broadband to 642,925 homes and businesses in 35 states. Overall, the reverse auction awarded $9.2 billion ($920 million per year) in funding for 180 entities nationwide to expand networks to 5.2 million homes and businesses that currently don’t have access to modern broadband speeds.

But funding winners still had to submit “long-form applications” by January 29 to provide “additional information about qualifications, funding, and the network that they intend to use to meet their obligations.” The FCC will review those applications to determine whether any funding should be revoked.

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SpaceX adds laser links to Starlink satellites to serve Earth’s polar areas

Starlink logo imposed on stylized image of the Earth.

Enlarge / Starlink logo imposed on stylized image of the Earth. (credit: Starlink)

SpaceX has begun launching Starlink satellites with laser links that will help provide broadband coverage in polar regions. As SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter on Sunday, these satellites “have laser links between the satellites, so no ground stations are needed over the poles.”

The laser links are included in 10 Starlink satellites just launched into polar orbits. The launch came two weeks after SpaceX received Federal Communications Commission approval to launch the 10 satellites into polar orbits at an altitude of 560km.

“All sats launched next year will have laser links,” Musk wrote in another tweet yesterday, indicating that the laser systems will become standard on Starlink satellites in 2022. For now, SpaceX is only including laser links on polar satellites. “Only our polar sats have lasers this year & are v0.9,” Musk wrote.

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SpaceX sets new record for most satellites on a single launch with latest Falcon 9 mission

SpaceX has set a new all-time record for the most satellites launched and deployed on a single mission, with its Transporter-1 flight on Sunday. The launch was the first of SpaceX’s dedicated rideshare missions, in which it splits up the payload capacity of its rocket among multiple customers, resulting in a reduced cost for each but still providing SpaceX with a full launch and all the revenue it requires to justify lauding one of its vehicles.

The launch today included 143 satellites, 133 of which were from other companies who booked rides. SpaceX also launched 10 of its own Starlink satellites, adding to the already more than 1,000 already sent to orbit to power SpaceX’s own broadband communication network. During a launch broadcast last week, SpaceX revealed that it has begun serving beta customers in Canada and is expanding to the UK with its private pre-launch test of that service.

Customers on today’s launch included Planet Labs, which sent up 48 SuperDove Earth imaging satellites; Swarm, which sent up 36 of its own tiny IoT communications satellites, and Kepler, which added to its constellation with eight more of its own communication spacecraft. The rideshare model that SpaceX now has in place should help smaller new space companies and startups like these build out their operational on-orbit constellations faster, complementing other small payload launchers like Rocket Lab, and new entrant Virgin Orbit, to name a few.

This SpaceX launch was also the first to deliver Starlink satellites to a polar orbit, which is a key part of the company’s continued expansion of its broadband service. The mission also included a successful landing and recovery of the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster, the fifth for this particular booster, and a dual recovery of the fairing halves used to protect the cargo during launch, which were fished out of the Atlantic ocean using its recovery vessels and will be refurbished and reused.

#aerospace, #broadband, #canada, #communications-satellites, #elon-musk, #falcon, #falcon-9, #hyperloop, #imaging, #outer-space, #planet-labs, #rocket-lab, #satellite, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #startups, #tc, #united-kingdom

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Watch SpaceX’s first dedicated rideshare rocket launch live, carrying a record-breaking payload of satellites

 

SpaceX is set to launch the very first of its dedicated rideshare missions – an offering it introduced in 2019 that allows small satellite operators to book a portion of a payload on a Falcon 9 launch. SpaceX’s rocket has a relatively high payload capacity compared to the size of many of the small satellites produced today, so a rideshare mission like this offers smaller companies and startups a chance to get their spacecraft in orbit without breaking the bank. Today’s attempt is scheduled for 10 AM EST (7 AM PST) after a first try yesterday was cancelled due to weather. So far, weather looks much better for today.

The cargo capsule atop the Falcon 9 flying today holds a total of 133 satellites according to SpaceX, which is a new record for the highest number of satellites being launched on a single rocket – beating out a payload of 104 spacecraft delivered by Indian Space Research Organization’s PSLV-C37 launch back in February 2017. It’ll be a key demonstration not only of SpaceX’s rideshare capabilities, but also of the complex coordination involved in a launch that includes deployment of multiple payloads into different target orbits in relatively quick succession.

This launch will be closely watched in particular for its handling of orbital traffic management, since it definitely heralds what the future of private space launches could look like in terms of volume of activity. Some of the satellites flying on this mission are not much larger than an iPad, so industry experts will be paying close attention to how they’re deployed and tracked to avoid any potential conflicts.

Some of the payloads being launched today include significant volumes of startup spacecraft, including 36 of Swarm’s tiny IoT network satellites, and eight of Kepler’s GEN-1 communications satellites. There are also 10 of SpaceX’s own Starlink satellites on board, and 48 of Planet Labs’ Earth-imaging spacecraft.

The launch stream above should begin around 15 minutes prior to the mission start, which is set for 10 AM EST (7 AM PST) today.

#aerospace, #bank, #communications-satellites, #falcon-9, #imaging, #indian-space-research-organization, #ipad, #outer-space, #planet-labs, #satellite, #small-satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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Watch SpaceX launch its first dedicated rideshare mission live, carrying a record-breaking number of satellites

[UPDATE: Today’s attempt was scrubbed due to weather conditions. Another launch window is available tomorrow at 10 AM ET]

SpaceX is set to launch the very first of its dedicated rideshare missions – an offering it introduced in 2019 that allows small satellite operators to book a portion of a payload on a Falcon 9 launch. SpaceX’s rocket has a relatively high payload capacity compared to the size of many of the small satellites produced today, so a rideshare mission like this offers smaller companies and startups a chance to get their spacecraft in orbit without breaking the bank.

The cargo capsule atop the Falcon 9 flying today holds a total of 133 satellites according to SpaceX, which is a new record for the highest number of satellites being launched on a single rocket – beating out a payload of 104 spacecraft delivered by Indian Space Research Organization’s PSLV-C37 launch back in February 2017. It’ll be a key demonstration not only of SpaceX’s rideshare capabilities, but also of the complex coordination involved in a launch that includes deployment of multiple payloads into different target orbits in relatively quick succession.

This launch will be closely watched in particular for its handling of orbital traffic management, since it definitely heralds what the future of private space launches could look like in terms of volume of activity. Some of the satellites flying on this mission are not much larger than an iPad, so industry experts will be paying close attention to how they’re deployed and tracked to avoid any potential conflicts.

Some of the payloads being launched today include significant volumes of startup spacecraft, including 36 of Swarm’s tiny IoT network satellites, and eight of Kepler’s GEN-1 communications satellites. There are also 10 of SpaceX’s own Starlink satellites on board, and 48 of Planet Labs’ Earth-imaging spacecraft.

The launch stream above should begin around 15 minutes prior to the mission start, which is set for 9:40 AM EST (6:40 AM PST) today.

#aerospace, #bank, #communications-satellites, #falcon-9, #imaging, #indian-space-research-organization, #ipad, #outer-space, #planet-labs, #satellite, #small-satellite, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc

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SpaceX delivers 60 more Starlink satellites in first launch of 2021, and sets new Falcon 9 rocket reusability record

SpaceX has launched its 17th batch of Starlink satellites during its first mission of 2021, using a Falcon 9 rocket that was flying for the eighth time, and that landed again, recording a record for its reusability program. This puts the total Starlink constellation size at almost 1,000, as the company has expanded its beta access program for the service to the UK and Canada, with a first deployment in the latter company serving a rural First Nations community in a remote part of the province of Ontario.

The launch took off from Florida at 8:02 AM EST (5:02 AM PST), with delivery of the satellites following as planned at around an hour after lift-off. The booster on this launch flew seven times previously, as mentioned – including just in December when it was used to delivery a SiriusXM satellite to orbit to support that company’s satellite radio network.

Today’s launch was also notable because it included a landing attempt in so-called “envelope expansion” conditions, which means that the winds in the landing zone where SpaceX’s drone recovery ship was stationed at sea actually exceeded the company’s previously-defined safety window for making a landing attempt.

As a result of today’s success, SpaceX will likely now have higher tolerances for wind speeds in order to attempt recovery, which should translate to fewer cancellations of launches based on weather conditions in the landing zone.

#aerospace, #canada, #elon-musk, #falcon, #falcon-9, #florida, #hyperloop, #outer-space, #satellite-radio, #science, #space, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #tc, #united-kingdom

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Russia may fine citizens who use SpaceX’s Starlink Internet service

A Falcon 9 rocket launches five dozen Starlink satellites on August 18, 2020.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches five dozen Starlink satellites on August 18, 2020. (credit: SpaceX)

Russia’s legislative body, the State Duma, is considering fines for individuals and companies in the country that use Western-based satellite Internet services. The proposed law seeks to prevent accessing the Internet by means of SpaceX’s Starlink service, OneWeb, or other non-Russian satellite constellations under development.

According to a recent report in the Russian edition of Popular Mechanics, the recommended fines range from 10,000 to 30,000 rubles ($135-$405) for ordinary users, and from 500,000 to 1 million rubles ($6,750 to $13,500) for legal entities who use the Western satellite services.

In the Russian-language article, translated for Ars by Robinson Mitchell, members of the Duma assert that accessing the Internet independently would bypass the country’s System of Operational Search Measures, which monitors Internet use and mobile communications. As part of the country’s tight control on media and communications, all Russian Internet traffic must pass through a Russian communications provider.

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#rogozin, #roscosmos, #science, #starlink

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Watch SpaceX launch a U.S. spy satellite live and bring its booster back for a landing on terra firma

SpaceX is launching a Falcon 9 today from Kennedy Space Center, with a launch window that spans three hours and opens at 9 AM EST (6 AM PST). The mission will carry a spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and will include a recovery attempt for the first-stage booster used on the Falcon 9 vehicle.

This Falcon 9’s first stage has already flown four times previously, including during two of SpaceX’s commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station for NASA, and during a Starlink launch, as well as for SAOCOM 1B, a satellite launch operation for the Argentinian space agency in August.

SpaceX will be attempting a landing back at its landing pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, a rarer occurrence vs. its use of its two drone landing ships positioned out in the ocean. SpaceX’s at-sea launches were introduced to allow for recovery of rocket boosters that didn’t have enough fuel remaining on board to make it all the way back to land – meaning this NRO mission’s parameters allow for a ‘return to sender’ trip back home.

Typically, when there’s a longer launch window, SpaceX will aim to launch at the beginning, depending on weather conditions. If that’s the case today, the stream above should begin at around 8:45 AM EST (15 minutes prior to the opening of the window).

#aerospace, #falcon, #falcon-9, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #science, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex, #spy, #starlink, #tc

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Amazon’s Project Kuiper will seek multiple launch providers to carry its satellites to space

Amazon SVP of Devices & Services David Limp joined us at TC Sessions: Space today, and he shared some new details about the company’s Project Kuiper broadband satellite constellation. Limp shared more details on the technical design challenges that the Kuiper team solved with its revolutionary customer terminal, but he also shared more info on the company’s plans around launching its constellation, which will number 3,236 per the current plan approved by the FCC.

“We’re launch agnostic” Limp said. “If you know somebody who has a rocket out there, give us a call. “One of the reasons we thought the time was right to do a constellation now is because of some of the dynamics happening in the launch industry. Every day, we see a new demonstration of reusability every day, we see new demonstration of breakthroughs in better engines, whether that’s Raptor [SpaceX’s engine] or BE-4 [Blue Origin’s].”

Part of the FCC’s approval for Amazon’s constellation requires it to send up around half of its planned total constellation within the next six years, which is a significant volume and will require an aggressive launch pace to achieve. SpaceX’s Starlink, for context, has launched 16 batches of 60 satellites each for its network, with 14 of those happening in 2020 alone. In order to achieve that pace, Limp said that while he hopes Blue Origin (the Jeff Bezos-owned private rocket launch company) can provide some of its launch capacity, they will be looking elsewhere for rides to space as well.

“When you have to put 3,200-plus things into space, you will need will need launch a lot lots of launch capacity,” he said. “Our hope is that it’s not just one provider, that there will be multiple providers.”

Depending on the final Project Kuiper satellite spec, this could be a huge opportunity for new small satellite launchers coming on board, including companies like Astra, Kuiper and Virgin Orbit who spoke earlier today at the event on the progress their launch companies are making. It could also be a windfall for existing providers like Rocket Lab – and even potentially SpaceX. In response to a separate question, Limp noted that he doesn’t believe Project Kuiper is in direct competition with SpaceX’s Starlink, since there’s such a broad addressable market when it comes to connectivity for unserved and underserved customers globally.

#aerospace, #amazon, #blue-origin, #broadband, #david-limp, #federal-communications-commission, #internet-service-providers, #jeff-bezos, #outer-space, #rocket-lab, #satellite, #satellite-constellation, #space, #space-tourism, #spacecraft, #spaceflight, #spacex, #starlink, #svp, #tc, #virgin-orbit

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Watch SpaceX launch a SiriusXM broadcasting satellite live during its 25th flight of 2020

SpaceX is already having a banner year, with major accomplishments including its first human spaceflight, and it’s aiming to pad its current record-breaking launch year with a 25th flight today. The launch will carry SiriusXM-7, a broadcasting satellite for satellite radio service SiriusXM, delivering it to a geostationary transfer orbit from Space Launch Complex-40 in Florida.

This is actually the second launch that SpaceX has conducted just this week, after flying its 21st commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA on December 6. SpaceX has a nearly two hour window for today’s launch, beginning at 11:21 AM EST (8:21 AM PST), and weather is currently looking good.

The booster used on this launch flew during Demo-1, the first crewed flight for SpaceX ever, which brought astronauts to the ISS in May, as well as during a RADARSAT launch, and four separate Starlink launches during 2020. This will be its seventh flight, tying a record for SpaceX’s flight-proven first-stage boosters. It’ll attempt to land aboard the company’s drone landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean after deploying its second stage and cargo.

The broadcast above should begin around 15 minutes prior to the opening of the launch window, so long as everything is tracking on time.

#aerospace, #elon-musk, #falcon-9, #florida, #hyperloop, #international-space-station, #outer-space, #space, #spaceflight, #spacex,