What is the SpaceX Starlink mission?

Adam Del Rosso interviewed AccuWeather's astronomy expert Brian Lada about the SpaceX Starlink mission.

Video Transcript

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- AccuWeather astronomy expert Brian Lada joins us this evening. Brian, as always, thank you for being here.

BRIAN LADA: It's great to have you.

- So we want to talk about SpaceX and their project, Starlink. What exactly are these Starlink satellites being used for?

BRIAN LADA: So the Starlink satellites are built, launched, and operated by SpaceX with the goal of providing high-speed internet all around the world. This means that you could be on top of a mountain, in the middle of the desert, or out in the ocean, and you'll be able to access high-speed internet.

Now, to do this, they need to launch over 1,000 satellites so that way, everywhere is covered around the globe. And imagine you being at your computer. To have access to the internet, one of these need to be flying overhead. But as that satellite goes farther away, another one needs to move overhead-- then as that one moves out of the way, yet another one. So all these satellites need to do this complex dance around the Earth so that way everyone is covered at the same time.

- And given today's society, internet is everything. So I'm sure this is a very popular project for them.

BRIAN LADA: Yeah, especially in rural communities where the internet speeds are just incredibly slow or places just off the grid that you need internet connection, this could be a cheap alternative.

- So there's already a lot of stuff flying around in space, whether it's in operation or space junk. Should we be concerned about putting more objects into orbit?

BRIAN LADA: This has been a big debate, especially in the astronomical community, especially people that are doing research at giant telescopes that need to be focused on one area of the sky for a long period of time. If some of these Starlink satellites pass between the telescope and the distant galaxy that they're looking at, that could really disrupt the data and interfere with whatever research they might be doing.

So it is a concern, but let me tell you, it is fascinating to see these satellites. I saw them for the first time last week by myself, and it was just something else. They launched 60 at a time. And over time, they gradually spread out, but for those first couple of days, they're all really close.

So I looked in the sky, and I saw 40 of them, one by one, going across over the span of three or four minutes. And I've never seen anything like it. So the internet and seeing these things in space, that's a pro. But the con is, you know, the space debris the space junk and the light pollution that they're causing.

- One good piece is that they're able to reuse these rockets. I'm sure you've seen the video of them coming back landing. I'm sure that saves them a lot of money, and it's better for the environment, right?

- Oh, good.

- Come on. Yes.

BRIAN LADA: Yeah, they're not using as much material to launch things into space, whether it be these Starlink satellites or astronauts to the International Space Station. They could reuse the same rockets over and over again, which reduces costs and reduces impact on the environment. Other times, when they launch rockets, a big rocket that once it's spent, falls in the ocean, and that can kind of be junk in the ocean as well, so they're reducing their impact that way.

- It seems like the number of launches and just overall space travel is becoming more common and more frequent, especially with SpaceX and the NASA partnership, China now building their own space station. Should we just get used to seeing all of these rockets and satellites in the sky?

BRIAN LADA: You know, this is an exciting time for space exploration. There's so much going on, and there's a lot more on the horizon, not only with what SpaceX is doing, but NASA is planning on returning humans to the moon, including the first woman to step foot on the moon, which is fantastic.

Blue Origin, which is run by Jeff Bezos, they're gonna be launching their new rocket in the next year or two. And United Launch Alliance, which is a big rocket contractor for NASA, they're gonna be unveiling their new rocket in the next year. So there is a lot going on. Plus you factor in things like space tourism, which are gonna be popping up, there's just things left and right. And we're just gonna be seeing more and more over the next couple of years.

- An exciting time, indeed, for all of us space geeks. Brian, thank you so much.

BRIAN LADA: Thanks for having me.