Live coverage: SpaceX to launch first Starlink satellites with direct-to-cell capability

Live coverage: SpaceX to launch first Starlink satellites with direct-to-cell capability

SpaceX, the aerospace manufacturer and space transportation company founded by Elon Musk, is set to launch its first batch of Starlink satellites with direct-to-cell capability. This groundbreaking launch is expected to revolutionize global internet connectivity.

The Starlink satellite constellation aims to provide high-speed, low-latency internet access to users around the world, especially in remote and underserved areas. With this direct-to-cell capability, the satellites will be able to connect directly to mobile devices, bypassing the need for traditional ground-based infrastructure.

This launch marks an important milestone in SpaceX’s ambitious plan to deploy thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit. The company envisions a network of satellites working together to provide seamless internet coverage, with the potential to connect even the most remote corners of the planet.

SpaceX has been conducting extensive testing and development to ensure the success of this mission. The satellites are equipped with advanced technology to enable fast and reliable internet connectivity, even in areas with limited or no existing infrastructure.

SpaceX is looking to rebound from a week of scuttled launches with a Falcon 9 launch from California. The Starlink 7-9 mission will feature another batch of 21 satellites heading up to low Earth orbit, something that has become almost routine for the company.

However, this late-night Friday mission is unique in that it will include the first six Starlink satellites that feature direct-to-cell capabilities. SpaceX stated that the new function “will enable mobile network operators around the world to provide seamless global access to texting, calling, and browsing… on land, lakes, or coastal waters.”

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket supporting the mission is targeting the opening of the launch window at 9:19 p.m. PST (12:19 a.m. EST, 0519 UTC). Spaceflight Now will have live coverage of the mission starting about 30 minutes before liftoff.

As the launch unfolds, SpaceX will provide live coverage, allowing enthusiasts and space enthusiasts to witness this historic event. The launch is scheduled to take place from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, and updates will be available on SpaceX’s official website and social media channels.

“This is a big deal,” Musk said during the presentation. “Even if an entire region or country lost connectivity because of a severe hurricane, floods, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, or even if all the cell towers were taken out, your phone would still work.”

According to a Nov. 30, 2023, email sent to Kathyrn Medley, the acting division chief of the Federal Communication’s (FCC) Satellite Licensing Division, SpaceX anticipates launching “approximately 840 direct-to-cell capable satellites over the next 6 months, with additional launches continuing after that period.”

Jameson Dempsey, SpaceX’s director of satellite policy and the author of the email, wrote that the planned and future launches would “ensure that we can launch a critical mass of satellites in time to deliver commercial service later in 2024.”

“As such, while we understand that the Commission may limit our experimental authority to the satellites we expect to launch and test in the next 6 months, we request that the launch license include authority for all 7500 satellites in our direct-to-cell modification application,” Dempsey wrote.

Sievert noted during the August 2022 event that the upcoming service in the U.S. would use the existing T-Mobile mid-band PCS spectrum.

“That allows us to then dedicate that, working together, to the constellation that Starlink operates so that we are seeing those satellites from every corner of the country,” Sievert said. “If you have a clear view of the sky, our vision is that you’re connected.”

“Your phone doesn’t know it’s connecting to space. It will scan for its home network; it’ll scan for terrestrial roaming partners as well,” Sievert added. “And if it fails to see those things, it will scan again and it will connect to the authorized connection from the satellite and it’ll think it’s connected to a cell tower because that phone is using industry-standard communication protocols and it has the spectrum already built in. At least, the vast majority of phones in circulation today do.”

With this direct-to-cell capability, SpaceX aims to bridge the digital divide and bring affordable internet access to millions of people worldwide. The Starlink project has the potential to transform the way we connect and communicate, opening up new possibilities for education, business, and innovation.

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