Elon Musk Reveals Link Between Planned Mars Colony And SpaceX Starlink

The ambitions of SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk in developing his massive Starlink constellation of 12,000 satellites extend far beyond merely providing high-speed internet service to every corner of the world.

Turns out he also sees Starlink as the cash cow that will help him land the first humans on Mars by the 2020s.

SpaceX on Friday will launch 60 Starlink satellites, the second largest number of satellites ever deployed in one launch mission by any country or company. The mission is scheduled to blast off at 10:30 pm EDT (02:30 UTC) from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Musk earlier tweeted this incredible number along with the first official photo of the satellites.

SpaceX still considers these 60 satellites a “test batch.” These birds won’t have the optical (laser) interlinks needed for Starlink’s unique constellation design. The full Starlink constellation will consist of 11,943 satellites at various altitudes in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which is defined as a geocentric orbit with an altitude of 2,000 km (1,200 miles) or less.

On Wednesday, Musk explained how the interconnected Starlink satellite constellation will serve as SpaceX’s key money-maker, helping fulfill his vision of sending humans to Mars by the next decade.

In comments to media, Musk spoke at length about Starlink’s timeline and finally revealed details about how the Starlink satellites work. Musk also confirmed SpaceX has the money needed to complete Starlink’s first major phase.

He went into detail about the Starlink satellites’ design and capabilities. Each Starlink satellite has “about a terabit of useful connectivity,” said Musk. The satellites will “automatically maneuver around any orbital debris” to avoid collisions in space.

“There’s a lot of new technology on the satellite,” he noted. But Musk expects Starlink to be a huge moneymaker.

“We see this as a way for SpaceX to generate revenue that can be used to develop more and more advanced rockets and spaceships,” Musk said.

“We believe we can use the revenue from Starlink to fund Starship.” Starship is the massive rocket under development by SpaceX that will fly humans to Mars.

Starship is designed to be a fully reusable launch system that can transport as many as 100 people at a time to and from the Moon or Mars.

Musk said SpaceX will need six more launches, with 60 satellites per launch, to get “minor coverage” for the Starlink network. A dozen launches (or 720 satellites) will allow the network to achieve “moderate” coverage.”

“This is one of the hardest engineering projects I’ve ever seen done,” Musk noted.

NASA SpaceX Hollywood star Tom Cruise may be making a movie with NASA and SpaceX, to be shot in space. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

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