SpaceX, Starlink and its motivation and philosophy

Elon Musk discusses Starlink Internet at MWC 2021

Elon Musk spoke a lot about SpaceX and Starlink in a 32-minute interview at Mobile World Congress 2021 and ended with a discussion of his motivation and the roles of his three companies – SpaceX, Starlink and Neuralnk. Let’s start with the SpaceX and Starlink update and end with the philosophy and motivation. (Scroll to the end of the article for the video of the interview).

  • Starlink will bridge the gap between fiber and 5G by providing viable service to the hardest-to-reach 3-5% of the population in sparsely populated areas.
  • They currently have more than 1,500 operational satellites with a combined power of 5 MW and a capacity of around 30 Tb / s.
  • They can have over 500,000 users in 12 months.
  • They expect to achieve a latency of less than 20ms.
  • They are currently licensed to provide service in around 12 countries and will be able to offer worldwide service (excluding polar regions) in five weeks.
  • Their software-defined phased array antennas for satellites and ground stations are the most sophisticated and advanced technology available, delivering microsecond switching without discernible jitter.
  • They have advanced a quickly reusable launching capacity (booster and fairing).
  • Last year they delivered about 2/3 of the entire payload mass to orbit and this year they expect to deliver almost 80%. China will provide about 12% and everyone else the rest.
  • They learn how to make satellites, terminals and gateways – improving the “machine that makes machines. ”
  • They will soon launch version 1.5 satellites with inter-satellite laser links (ISLL) to serve high latitude regions.
  • Next year’s version 2 satellites will have a lot more capabilities and ISLLs.
  • They are planning more gateways in the main service centers.
  • They are almost ready to announce data link agreements with two major mobile phone companies.
  • They have an interesting proposition in countries where telephone companies are required to subsidize rural connectivity.
  • They will have invested $ 5-10 billion by the time they have positive cash flow and will need to keep investing – perhaps $ 20- $ 30 billion over time – to remain competitive with cellular geosynchronous satellite internet service. and cheaper.
  • Their goal is reliable and quickly reusable rockets. With a Falcon 9 launch, 60% of the cost is the booster, 20% the top stage, 10% the fairing, and the launch and recovery process is around 10%, and they do well for the recovery of the booster and fairing.
  • The retail price of the Starlink service will be the same everywhere, what surprised me.
  • The cost of the terminal is now over $ 1,000 and they hope to bring it down to $ 250-300.
  • Starship is designed for full and rapid reuse and will be able to launch 100 tons and finely 150 tons into orbit without refurbishment between flights, like an airplane.
  • The spacecraft uses low cost methane-oxygen fuel, so the propellant cost per launch will be about the same as with the Falcon 9.
  • The marginal cost per launch will be around $ 2 million, which is lower than the original Falcon one rocket.
  • With orbital refueling, Starship will be able to deliver 100, maybe 200 tonnes to the Moon or Mars.
  • Musk reiterated his oft-quoted statement that his goal for Starlink is not to go bankrupt and his too simplified claim that setting up a Starlink terminal is as easy as plugging it in and pointing it at the sky. He also recalled his recent sophomore tweet to have 69,420 clients.

Underlying philosophy

At the end of the interview, the moderator said Musk seemed to take on new challenges rather than opportunities and asked what criteria he used when deciding whether to take on a new challenge.

Musk began his response by stating the purpose of three of his undertakings –

  • SpaceX: to extend the reach and scale of consciousness beyond Earth.
  • Tesla: To make sure that life on Earth is good with sustainable energy.
  • Neuralink: To achieve long-term AI-human symbiosis.

All of them contribute to the end of the widening of the scope and scale of consciousness:

“Usually these companies are geared towards, for example, what actions can I think of doing to maximize the likelihood that the future is good and that future includes expanding the scope and scale of consciousness. This is based on my basic philosophy of, you know, we don’t really know what all the answers or even what questions to ask, but if we are able to expand the scope and scale of consciousness then we are better off. able to know what questions to ask about the answer that it is the universe.

I wish the interviewer went on to ask him to speculate on the possible side effects of expanding the scope and scale of human-machine consciousness in the pursuit of understanding the universe.

Here is the video of the interview:

Elon Musk discusses Starlink Internet at MWC 2021

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Co-designer of TCP / IP protocols and Internet architecture

About Alma Ackerman

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