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SpaceX Starlink internet in the US by mid-2020, and more

🌄 Morning! A pro-tip: don't let your bike lock start to jam, not do anything about it, and eventually leave you locked out of your bike.

SpaceX Starlink, coming to you mid-2020

It’s worth digging into some Starlink details today because there’s a fresh new timeline of mid-2020 that’s emerged. Which is, sadly, very soon.

We start with Elon Musk. In his classic style he tweeted two significant things yesterday:

musky space tweets

  1. "Sending this tweet through space via Starlink satellite," wrote Musk. 
  2. Two minutes later: a followup "Whoa, it worked!!"

(Not bad. But let's explore that further down below with a story about my parents..)

Next, it turns out SpaceNews has a whole bunch of, well, space news, about SpaceX’s Starlink constellation of internet-beaming satellites - 60 of which are orbiting the earth at the moment, from an interview with SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.

  • Musk "has a Starlink terminal at his house," SpaceNews writes, which, by the way, reveals that most everyone is going to need a Starlink receiver terminal at their house
  • From the article: When consumers sign up, “they are going to receive a box from SpaceX” with a user terminal and a cord, said Shotwell. How that gets connected and where the terminals should be placed in someone’s home are still issues to be ironed out. “We still have a lot to do to get that right,” said Shotwell. “Knowing Elon, he wants everything to be beautiful. So the user terminal will be beautiful.
  • (I’m not sure that explains anything to be honest, but moving on...)
  • SpaceX is hiring like crazy for people to help build more of these modules, or ground-based hardware, “ranging from ground stations and mobile applications to the “user terminals” that will go in customer homes,” writes Teslarati, confirming the SpaceNews report.
  • Now, I have some unique perspective on this, because my parents on their farm in Australia have satellite internet, via two satellites called Sky Muster. It’s partly-subsidised by the Australian government, and it’s just two satellites in a very high geostationary orbit, 35,786 kilometres/22,236 mi above. 
  • Speeds are good when the network isn’t congested, latency is not, as you might expect.
  • But to achieve this, they have a great big satellite dish on their roof. I’ll organise them to take a photo in a future DGiT Daily.
  • With much lower and many more satellites, it seems that a dish isn’t required, even if a beautiful terminal is.

space-x-starlink-launch

Back to Starlink, and mid-2020:

  • We now also know a closer timeline for deployment: “Shotell said SpaceX is confident it can start offering broadband service in the United States via its Starlink constellation in mid-2020, the company's president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said Oct. 22.”
  • "Shotwell said SpaceX will need to complete six to eight Starlink launches—including the one that already took place in May—to ensure continuous service in upper and lower latitude bands," reported SpaceNews.
  • SpaceX is aiming for 24 more launches of its bundle of satellites to achieve sufficient coverage. 
  • The company has permission from the FCC to deploy up to 11,943 satellites. Additional permissions have been sought to launch as many as 30,000 more, as we reported a few days ago.

Price?

  • The details are super interesting, but for most people it’s going to come down to price, speed, and latency. SpaceX has said a latency as low as 25ms and up to gigabit speeds, but the proof will be in the user terminal connection.
  • As for price, “Shotwell said millions of people in the U.S. pay $80 per month to get “crappy service.”
  • Which again, isn’t an answer. But it’s a number that's now out there, at least?

Round Up:

📈 Huawei hits 200m smartphones shipped in 2019, smashes 2018’s record (Android Authority).

👬 LG G8X ThinQ with its second screen is $699, way cheaper than expected (Android Authority).

🔊 Spotify is giving away free Google Home Minis, here’s how to get one (US only) (Android Authority).

🥣 Some Google Pixel 4 pre-orders come in cereal box, complete with actual cereal (Android Authority).

🤢 15 worst Android phone names, ranked (Android Authority). Very, very funny stuff: “Thirsty? The Motorola Quench manages to sound both aggressive and disgusting, which is exactly what you want from a smartphone.”

🕶 Samsung design patent could give us a glimpse of its future AR headset (Android Authority).

🎧 Beats Solo Pro review (positive: most things, negative: cost) and AmazonBasics Gaming Headset review (positive: cost, negative: everything else) (SoundGuys).

🚫 “Why we are leaving the Apple AppStore and all its problems” (exactscan.com). Note this isn’t iOS but the Mac AppStore. Discussion on Hacker News.

📦 Amazon expands its in-store pickup service, Counter, to thousands more stores (TechCrunch).

🤔 Why WeWork founder Adam Neumann is getting $1.7 billion to leave the company he ran into the ground (Recode). “This isn’t normal, but nothing about WeWork is normal.”

🚶‍♂️ Microsoft’s DreamWalker VR turns your daily commute into a totally different one (Ars Technica).

🏩 Japanese hotel chain sorry that hackers may have watched guests through bedside robots (The Register). “Meat-based staff” is a great line.

🛫 US Air Force gets its first anti-drone laser weapon from Raytheon (Engadget).

👩‍🔬 Quantum supremacy from Google? Not so fast, says IBM (MIT Technology Review).

🚗 Google and Facebook are reading your license plates (Jalopnik).

💰 “What do the rich buy that the poor don't even know is available for purchase?” (r/askreddit).

Wednesday Weirdness

Remember the Chinese Moon Rover that spotted a gel-like substance that was pretty weird, a few weeks ago?

There's a new image, and you can now see for yourself:

  • See that shiny stuff? That's it!
  • Annnnd it turns out, well, it's almost definitely the same stuff that Apollo 17 astronauts found: dark glass, created from impact.
  • “I think the most reliable information here is that the material is relatively dark,” Dan Moriarty, NASA Postdoctoral Program fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center told Space.com.
  • “It appears to have brighter material embedded within the larger, darker regions, although there is a chance that is light glinting off a smooth surface.”
  • Others agree: melt glass caused by hot meteors seems most likely
  • It seems the search for odd blobs continues.

Back with more tech closer to earth tomorrow - Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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