The first 60 operational satellites for SpaceX's project, called Starlink, are slated to launch aboard one of the company's Falcon 9 rockets at around 10:30 p.m. local time Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, after wind conditions caused a 24-hour delay to the original schedule.
Future plans are for almost 12,000 satellites to go into low-Earth orbit, which will provide downlink data from space to internet users. The project is expected to be completed by 2027 and will consist which is almost 12,000 satellites - six times the number of all operational spacecraft now in orbit.
The slated launch will be the first major test deployment of SpaceX's Starlink satellites in the lower Earth orbit.
Though the spacecraft lack intersatellite links and other features expected in later iterations, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the satellites mark the start of deployment for a constellation created to deliver internet access to unreached and underserved parts of the world. Unlike with some other recent launches which had instantaneous launch opportunities, the Starlink launch will have exactly one and a half hours to get off the ground. He added, though, that SpaceX would be happy to launch any of his competitors' satellites. The 230-foot-tall vehicle is supposed to lift off tonight between 10:30 p.m. and midnight ET. Last month, CNBC reported that Badyal is now leading Amazon's Project Kuiper, which plans to put more than 3,000 satellites in low Earth orbit. It will take 12 launches before the company can provide coverage for a significant portion of the world's population, according to Musk.
"This is the most exciting new network we've seen in a long time", Mark Handley, a computer-networking researcher at University College London who has studied Starlink, previously told Business Insider.
"Then you have thousands of new satellites without a plan of getting them out of there". The company launched two prototype spacecraft nicknamed Tintin A and Tintin B in February 2018. As many as 2,000 satellites will be launched per year, he said.
If these challenges can be overcome, Musk says, Starlink could provide significant benefits over now available services.
"Each company has to launch a certain number of satellites to provide commercial services", said Tom Stroup, president of the Satellite Industry Association in Washington.
Musk said Starlink user terminals will also use phased array, electronically steered antennas - a technology widely considered essential for the success of low-Earth-orbit broadband constellations.
Musk said Starlink terminals, leveraging work by SpaceX's "chip team", can switch between satellites in under a thousandth of a second, and will support a system where the overall latency is under 20 milliseconds.
The goal is to use Starlink to relay internet traffic at close to the speed of light. Starlink revenue would also help fund a base on the moon, he said.