SpaceX CEO Elon Musk now controls 25% of all active satellites orbiting Earth after launching more than a dozen Starlink missions over the past two years.
A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to deliver the latest batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, raising the total number of satellites in low-Earth orbit to around 1,000.
Musk, who became the world’s richest person in early 2021 with a net worth in excess of $200 billion, provoked controversy last year when Starlink’s updated Terms of Service stated that SpaceX would not recognise international law on Mars.
Starlink 17 is the latest in SpaceX’s plan to create a constellation of up to 40,000 satellites in order to beam high-speed internet down to Earth.
Data from satellite tracker Celestrak reveals that the 946 Starlinks currently in orbit makeup 27.3% of all active satellites in orbit, as of February 1, 2021.
Starlink is one of several projects aiming to provide high-speed internet to users on Earth, with SoftBank-funded OneWeb currently the closest competitor.
According to the company’s website, SpaceX’s latest mission as well as its ongoing expansion is planning to achieve “near-global coverage of the populated world in 2021.”
At the moment, the Starlink network covers northerly latitudes and provides an initial beta service restricted to Canada, the US, and the UK, with plans to branch out in Europe this year after US beta testers reported download speeds far higher than expected.