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SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk. Photo: David McNew/AFP/Getty Images

Elon Musk's SpaceX has big plans to beam high-speed internet to millions of people around the world.

The big picture: Called Starlink, the project is designed to use thousands of relatively low-cost satellites to provide broadband globally, even to remote areas without access to the internet today. But it will likely take dozens of launches to get the satellite constellation up and running, with many more over the years to keep them functioning — and even then it could contribute to a larger space junk problem.

Driving the news: SpaceX launched the first 60 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida on one of its Falcon 9 rockets on Thursday night. The rocket launched at 10:30 ET and the first booster returned for a smooth landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean about 10 minutes after launch, after sending the satellites to orbit.

The backdrop: In November 2018, SpaceX won permission from the FCC to launch 7,000 Starlink satellites into space with the eventual goal of building a network of 12,000 satellites that surround Earth and provide internet access.

  • Musk has said the goal of Starlink is to provide a revenue stream to help fund an eventual city on Mars, per Space News.
  • The first two Starlink "demonstration satellites” were launched into space on Feb. 22, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, along with the PAZ satellite on one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.
    • Those first two satellites were essentially a proof-of-concept test. Nicknamed Tintin-A and Tintin-B, the two satellites were pathfinders, but Musk said the 60 being launched now are "production-design" satellites.
  • Reuters reported in October 2018 that Musk fired at least 7 people on Starlink's senior management team due to "disagreements over the pace at which the team was developing and testing its Starlink satellites."
    • The report highlighted the sense of urgency with which Musk approaches the project as SpaceX races to become the first private company to create this constellation.
  • Musk tweeted a photo of the 60 satellites loaded in the Falcon rocket. He tweeted that "much will likely go wrong" on this first mission and that 6 more launches of 60 satellites are needed for "minor coverage" and 12 for “moderate.”
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The other side: A number of private companies — including OneWeb, Telesat and Leosat — have also had satellites approved. Amazon's Project Kuiper is also planning to launch thousands of satellites to orbit in the name of providing global broadband.

Yes, but: These sorts of satellite constellations are huge and SpaceX will need to coordinate its constellations and avoid other satellites and space junk that could threaten the network. The company will also need to avoid adding to the space junk problem.

  • It's also unclear at what price point a satellite-based internet service will be competitive with something like 5G — and whether it will be successful business-wise at all.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Rep. Rice demands Cuomo resign after third woman accuses him of misconduct

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February news conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) on Monday evening called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign, after a third woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Driving the news: Anna Ruch told the New York Times Monday that Cuomo asked to kiss her at a New York City wedding reception in September 2019.

Scoop: Inside the GOP's plan to retake the House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans will reclaim their majority in 2022 by offering candidates who are women, minorities or veterans, a memo obtained by Axios says.

Why it matters: The document, drafted by a super PAC blessed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, names top Democrats to target — Jared Golden of Maine, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Ron Kind of Wisconsin — and the type of Republican candidates to beat them.

Scoop: Trump talked out of early Ohio endorsement

Jane Timken at a 2017 Trump rally. Photo: Kyle Mazza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Donald Trump had to be talked out of making an early endorsement in Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, a sign of his eagerness to reengage politically, people familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

What we're hearing: The former president discussed endorsing former state GOP chair Jane Timken last week during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, but top advisers — including Donald Trump Jr. — urged him to wait.

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