SpaceX has continued to expand its Starlink internet service at a rapid pace, and people around the world have reported seeing the satellites streaking across the night skies above them.
Satellite internet — More than 1,500 Starlink satellites are now in orbit, and SpaceX plans to launch a total of 42,000 by 2027. The goal is to provide global internet coverage, particularly in rural areas not well served by infrastructure on the ground. Starlink is already available to select customers and costs $99 per month as well as $499 for the hardware.
Early reviews of the service have been mixed. Some customers report impressive download speeds of more than 100Mbps, but service areas remain spotty and others are unable to get a reliable signal at their homes. Still, the service has a lot of potential to expand broadband access and generate new revenue for SpaceX.
Upwards of 60 satellites are sent into space with each launch, and anyone interested in seeing the high-speed internet satellites can use the website Find Starlink to get a good idea of when they’ll be visible in the night sky overhead.
Insider spoke to the website’s creator, who says Find Starlink attracted half a million views in its first five days. "Find Starlink was created three days after the first Starlink launch (24 May, 2019) because I wanted to see the Starlink train and none of the existing websites tracked Starlink at that point," they said.
Changing visibility — The website is pretty straightforward. Once you type in your location, the site displays timings with good, average, and poor visibility around the area. It will also tell you which direction to look in.
The predictions are just that, however: predictions. Find Starlink bases its information on SpaceX launch dates, as the satellites are most visible while they’re entering orbit. Their visibility continues to change in the week thereafter as they get further away and become harder to see.
Starlink satellites are particularly visible from the surface because they sit in low orbit, and they’re larger than most satellites that live so close to Earth. They also have large flat panels that are reflective, something that has concerned astronomers who worry the light reflected off Starlink satellites will make it harder to study the night sky.
CEO Elon Musk last year said SpaceX would address the brightness issue by using on-board engines to move existing Starlink crafts further from the Earth and rotate their panels towards the Sun. That is supposed to make them less visible to the naked eye. SpaceX is also developing a “sunshade” that’s supposed to reduce reflections.
If you really want to see a Starlink satellite, time it with a launch. The next batch is expected to launch into orbit in a few weeks.