Nov 12, 2019

SpaceX, Amazon and others plan constellations of internet-beaming satellites

Miriam Kramer, author of Space

Starlink satellites ahead of deployment in space. Photo: SpaceX

Despite an uncertain market, companies are moving forward in their plans to launch thousands of internet-beaming satellites to low-Earth orbit — and some are already facing setbacks.

Why it matters: SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb and others are betting big on these global broadband constellations in the hopes that the fleets of small satellites will help tap them into underserved markets and increase their bottom lines.

  • However, it's not yet clear which companies will be able to gain a foothold and actually make their plans profitable.

What's happening: On Monday, SpaceX launched its second batch of 60 Starlink satellites to orbit.

  • The company expects to be able to provide Starlink coverage to people in Canada and the northern parts of the U.S. as early as next year, with full, global coverage to follow after about 24 launches.
  • OneWeb announced the delay of the launch of a clutch of its satellites from December to January in order to further test the spacecraft.
  • Another company, Telesat, is now expected to choose a manufacturer for its broadband constellation in early 2020 instead of this year as initially expected.
  • For its part, Amazon’s Project Kuiper has filed with the FCC to get going with its own constellation.

Yes, but: While analysts agree there are millions of people around the world who could benefit from better access to broadband, it's not yet clear that these constellations will be the best way to deliver it.

  • Safely flying hundreds or even thousands of satellites in tandem is technically difficult, and it's unclear how expensive the broadband service provided by these constellations — which will likely cost billions of dollars to build — will be for consumers.
  • "We don't know how big the market is for consumer broadband, but it may not be much bigger than we have today," technology consultant Tim Farrar told Axios.

Go deeper: Satellite startup snags funding for "cell towers in space"

Go deeper

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:45 p.m. ET: 5,763,122 — Total deaths: 358,235 — Total recoveries — 2,389,735Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:45 p.m. ET: 1,715,811 — Total deaths: 101,337 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. Public health: The mystery of coronavirus superspreaders.
  4. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  5. Education: Science fairs are going virtual, and some online elements may become permanent.
  6. Axios on HBO: Science fiction writers tell us how they see the coronavirus pandemic.
  7. 🏃‍♀️Sports: Boston Marathon canceled after initial postponement, asks runners to go virtual.
  8. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Minnesota activates National Guard amid fallout from George Floyd death

A portrait of George Floyd hangs on a street light pole in Minneapolis. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

George Floyd, 46, moved to Minnesota to improve his life and become his "best self," but instead, he is dead because of Minneapolis police.

The latest: Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared a state of emergency and activated the state's National Guard in response to violent clashes over the past two days between police and protesters in the Twin Cities.

Trump signs executive order targeting protections for social media platforms

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday designed to limit the legal protections that shield social media companies from liability for the content users post on their platforms.

What they're saying: "Currently, social media giants like Twitter receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory that they are a neutral platform, which they are not," Trump said in the Oval Office. "We are fed up with it. It is unfair, and it's been very unfair."