SpaceX has successfully launched its first broadband satellites

On Thursday morning, February 22, a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s commercial space company launched into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California carrying a unique payload. SpaceX has successfully sent low-orbiting satellites into space to beam high-speed internet to folks around the world as part of a program called “Starlink.” And despite a series of delays due to inclement weather, SpaceX’s latest mission is fitted, fueled, and now flown.

Musk tweeted that the two satellites “will attempt to beam ‘hello world'” when they fly over Los Angeles on Friday. If successful, this would prove that the spacecraft is indeed capable of communicating with ground stations.

Other companies have discussed blanketing the Earth in internet waves from satellites or low-flying balloons, notably giants like Google and Facebook. Google’s Project Loon brought internet access back to Puerto Rico last fall, for example. But if anyone can do complete a project as massive as this, it’s Musk, who silenced his naysayers forever (or at least for a few months) with the successful (and awe-inspiring) launch of the Falcon Heavy earlier this month. Now Starlink is ready to rock.

So what is it, exactly?

As CNET reported, the FCC actually granted SpaceX a license to launch the first Starlink satellites late in 2017. In SpaceX’s original application, the company noted its objectives, writing “in addition to proving out the development of the satellite bus and related subsystems, the test program for the Microsat-2a and -2b spacecraft will also validate the design of a phased array broadband antenna communications platform.”

SpaceX was quite tight-lipped leading up to the satellites’ launch, although Joy Dunn, the company’s senior manager of new product introduction, did take to Twitter to drop a hint (though it was quickly deleted). It read, “Really looking forward to this one” with two satellite emojis, and linked to a SpaceX tweet about the successful static fire test of the Falcon 9.

According to a letter posted to the FCC’s website in early February, Microsat-2a and -2b, the first satellites of what is eventually slated to be an entire fleet, would go into orbit in early February. But just hours before its originally scheduled liftoff time, the crew at the Vandenberg launchpad required more time to run “final checkouts.” Launch was then set for Wednesday, February 21 — but minutes before launch, poor conditions forced SpaceX to push the launch.

Luckily, all systems have since been a go, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed for reaping the benefits of Starlink in the not so distant future.

Updated on February 22: The launch of the first satellites of project Starlink has successfully taken place. 

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