Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX has kicked off 2024 by undertaking yet another endeavour. Aboard the Falcon 9 spacecraft, the first batch of Starlink internet satellites took to the skies on Tuesday, January 2, at 10:44 p.m. EST. These Starlink satellites promise direct-to-cell capabilities, meaning that you could potentially get satellite broadband directly on your smartphone. In theory, this could eliminate the problems caused by geographical features in providing internet facilities.
‘Direct to cell phones’ Starlink satellites: What this means
The launch featured 21 Starlink satellites lift-off to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. It also included the first six Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capabilities.
Announcing the launch, the official Starlink website stated, “This launch will include the first six Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capabilities that will enable mobile network operators around the world to provide seamless global access to texting, calling, and browsing wherever you may be on land, lakes, or coastal waters” In effect, it means all those smartphone users who are using this Starlink service will get mobile phone connectivity no matter where they may be.
Internet from space for humans on Earth
The service will be accessible on your current mobile phone provided your telecom operator has acquired access to this service from Starlink. This service is of special importance to areas where reliable internet service is not good or is completely unavailable. And the entire system can be up and running in quick time, indicating its usefulness even in times of emergencies when terrestrial infrastructure may not be available, for some reason or another – due to a catastrophe or otherwise. Importantly, it can provide critical access to crucially needed resources.
As part of the launch, the first stage of the Falcon 9 came back down to Earth just 8.5 minutes after lift-off, and landed safely back on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship in the Pacific Ocean. The launch of the direct-to-cell satellites was initially scheduled for mid-December 2023 but was repeatedly delayed.
Starlink is aiming to blanket the Earth with a network of satellites that provide satellite internet. As of now, more than 5100 active satellites have been launched, and the list keeps on growing with every launch.
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