When Elon Musk's SpaceX launches a Spanish satellite from Vandenberg Air force Base on Thursday, there will be two tiny hitchhikers that could revolutionize worldwide communications right down to your laptop. Big as it s, the worldwide web will soon get a whole lot bigger.
The Falcon 9 that will carry the Spanish PAZ earth observation satellite in to orbit, will also carry two tiny payloads, Microsats 2a and 2b. They are the first two of 12,000 micro communications satellites, twice the number of all satellites ever launched to date.
Starlink will bring high-peed internet into every nook, cranny and internet dead spot in the nation by 2020 and the entire planet by 2024. This low-to-earth constellation of satellites will virtually eliminate the lag time of many slower earth-based internet services. "You can actually have a more direct path through space. And, photons move faster depending on what fiber optic material they're running through. Photons actually move about 40 to 50 percent faster in vacuum than they do in fiber optic cables," said Elon Musk last August.
There are several very small, satellite internet services out there. But, Musk's Starlink constellation is the first of a huge wave of mega systems including a 4,600 satellite system from Samsung, a 3,000 satellite system from Boeing and a 2,700 satellite system from a company called One Web. Though it's already very crowded up there, there's actually plenty of room to do this.
Futurist Bryan Alexander works in the area of how technology changes education and says this technology will change everything for billions of people. "We have people across the world, in the first world, in the U.S., as well as the third world, who just don't have access to broadband for all kinds of reasons," said Alexander.
No desert, no island, no wasteland, no ship and sea or plane in the air; nowhere would be internet remote. This could open up the world to new thinking from sources never tapped. "Share more and more learning so people can get smarter and they can collaborate more and as you said, tap into the brains of people who otherwise wouldn't be connected and that was part of the dream of the internet starting back in the 60's," said Alexander. But, the downside, says Alexander, there is a danger if this technology is held in the hands of only a few people, especially ultra rich billionaires whose judgments, likes, dislikes promises and whims are quick to change or unpredictable.