Internet access is so ubiquitous in the United States and Western Europe that it has spawned an entire cottage industry to help people disconnect. Yet for roughly half the world’s population this level of connectivity is simply unfathomable. Nearly 4 billion people haven’t been online once in the past three months—the UN’s comically low threshold for counting someone as an internet user—which means they miss out on the many social, economic, and educational benefits that come with an internet connection. Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley quickly realized that connecting the world presented a huge business opportunity, one that could be wrapped in feel-good humanitarian language to boot. The underwhelming result? Internet balloons and internet drones. There was another idea, though, that was equally bold and perhaps more realistic: internet satellites. Thousands upon thousands of internet satellites. On Wednesday evening, SpaceX is expected to launch 60 internet satellites into low Earth orbit. They will be the first members of its satellite megaconstellation, Starlink. The 500-pound “flat panel” satellites will be boosted to nearly 275 miles above the Earth by a Falcon 9 rocket, at which point they will use their onboard ion thrusters to reach a final orbital altitude of about 340… Read full this story
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