(NEWSER) – SpaceX launched its heaviest load yet into space Thursday night—60 separate satellites weighing 500 pounds apiece, reports CNN. And if everything goes according to plan, Elon Musk’s company will launch hundreds and perhaps thousands more such satellites, all part of an ambitious system called Starlink designed to beam high-speed internet around the world. It will take a while to get there—SpaceX says “minor” coverage from this orbiting constellation won’t be possible until 400 satellites are in space, and “moderate” coverage will require about 800, per Space.com. But SpaceX plans to go much further than that—in fact, it has permission from the FCC to launch a total of 12,000. Thursday’s launch puts SpaceX ahead of a handful of competitors including OneWeb and Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
The SpaceX satellites will orbit between 210 and 710 miles above Earth and are powered by solar arrays, reports the New York Times. As for the problem of space junk: Each satellite is supposed to be able to navigate around existing orbital debris to avoid collisions. As for what happens when a satellite dies, the company says all but about 25 pounds of it will burn up on re-entry as it falls back to Earth. In future versions, the company says all of the satellite will burn up. Still, this is seen as one of the biggest dangers as SpaceX and eventually its rivals dramatically increase the number of satellites in orbit, notes Forbes. If all goes well, even places such as Antarctica would have access to high-speed internet. Musk plans to use revenue generated by the Starlink system to fund his plan for a journey to Mars. … see more