Have you seen a line of lights travelling across the sky?
With clear skies, many in people in the UK were confused by the spectacle last night (April 19), caused by the Starlink broadband satellite ‘megaconstellation’ from Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.
What is Starlink?
Unlike many super hero’s who can be recognised with the phrase “Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” No its Starlink once completed, will be SpaceX’s proposed constellation of thousands of satellites, which are designed to orbit at low altitudes above the Earth and beam internet coverage to the surface below. SpaceX has so far secured licensing to launch nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit. The first 60 satellites were launched on May 23, 2019, on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 – a rocket that is launched with the aid of friction stir welding technology invented at TWI on Granta Park.
Problems solved by Elon Musk and his Companies
Thruster units for space travel cannot be reused – Completed
Thruster units cannot land safely after use – Completed – SpaceX said “bet you we can land it on a pontoon”
Rockets have to be huge and burn inefficiently – Not only are the Dragon rockets efficient and smaller, but SpaceX can combine them to travel to the stars.
Some day we will get to Mars – SpaceX response “hold my beer”
Internal combustion engines are the best and cheapest for transport – Literal launch of Roadster
Local refilling locations worldwide – Creating network of charge sites globally
Oil price will never fall – Electricity is a cheap renewable none fossil fuel
Commercial vehicles from pickups to delivery trucks – Tesla “check out our cybertruck and Tesla Semi”
Unsafe cars risking passengers to injury – Super safe and you cannot roll the Tesla X
What innovation comes next from Mr Musk, we are hopeful for a few:
Medical treatment pods
Can I see the megaconstellation?
The satellites are due to be visible from the UK again tonight, travelling from west to east from 9.58pm, and each day until April 24.
April 21, 2020
3.30am – Starlink-3 for two minutes – look from south-east to east
5.03am – Starlink-3 or six minutes – look from west to east
8.58pm – Starlink-5, 6 for six minutes – look from south-west to east
10.34pm – Starlink-5, 6 for six minutes – look from west to north-east
April 22, 2020
4.04am – Starlink-3 for four minutes – look from west to east
9.34pm – Starlink-5, 6 for six minutes – look from west to east
April 23, 2020
3.06am – Starlink-3 for two minutes – look from east to east
4.39 am – Starlink-3 for six minutes – look from west to east
10.10pm – Starlink-5, 6 for six minutes – look from west to east
April 24, 2020
3.41am – Starlink-3 for four minutes – look from west to east
9.10pm – Starlink-5, 6 for six minutes – look from west to east
Eventually, SpaceX hopes to have as many as 12,000 satellites in orbit, providing a broadband internet service. Currently, there are only 2,218 satellites in total orbiting Earth.
There have now been six launches – the last on March 18 and another 60 satellites are due to be launched on Thursday April 23 -with SpaceX saying it is working with authorities to mitigate the effects of the megaconstellation.
The company expects to launch its broadband internet service by the end of 2020.
While looking out for Starlink tonight, you may also spot the annual Lyrids meteor shower, which is due to peak on Tuesday evening (April 21). It is possible to see up to about 20 meteors (so-called ‘shooting stars’) an hour.