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SpaceX Starlink satellite broadband gets off the ground

A pair of small satellites named for an adventurous Belgian cartoon character could serve as proof of concept for an ambitious global broadband service envisioned by Elon Musk. After days of delays, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the two small satellites, newly dubbed Tintin A and B by Musk (but known more formally as Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b), lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force base in California on Thursday morning. The recycled rocket’s main mission was to launch Spain’s larger Earth-imaging satellite, Paz.

It’s a fairly routine delivery for SpaceX these days.

But once again SpaceX CEO Musk has sparked the public’s imagination with plans to build something unprecedented. In this case, it’s two constellations of satellites, totaling over 11,000 orbiting craft in all, meant to deliver terrestrial-quality broadband to anywhere on the globe, be it an Arctic research station or an African village. The Federal Communications Commission last year granted permission for the operation of the Microsats, but Musk only publicly acknowledged the existence of the prototype satellites this week, saying on Twitter that the Starlink broadband service “will serve [the] least served.”

Today’s Falcon launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband.

If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 21, 2018

Paz and the pair of small satellites were successfully deployed about 11 minutes after the Falcon lifted off. Less than two hours later, Musk reported that the demonstration satellites had successfully deployed and begun communicating with Earth stations. He added that Tintin A and B “will attempt to beam ‘hello world’ in about 22 hours when they pass near [Los Angeles].” Also, the Wi-Fi password is “martians,” Musk joked.

The launch had been delayed three times from its initially scheduled date of Saturday, first to provide extra time to check out launch systems and an upgraded fairing, then because of high-altitude winds. The Falcon 9 booster used to deliver the three satellites to orbit was not recovered. It was previously flown on a mission in August and recovered to be reused for this launch.

SpaceX did try to use a new giant-net-on-a-boat setup that Musk announced after the launch of the Falcon Heavy earlier this month. It attempted to catch the fairing, which is the nose cone that protects the payload during ascent, but Musk reported that it missed its target by a few hundred meters, splashing down intact in the Pacific instead.

Tintin A and B are designed to communicate with each other through optical laser links and with ground stations on Earth. If all goes well and SpaceX receives approval from the FCC to begin launching its first full satellite constellation, we could see hundreds and then thousands of other small satellites being launched to a low Earth orbit to begin spinning up the broadband service.

Most satellite internet customers are currently served by a handful of satellites in high geostationary orbit, but Starlink’s lower-altitude constellations would instead use a swarm of satellites to provide low-latency connectivity that feels more like a cable or fiber-optic connection. All of this is likely several years and many more rocket launches down the road. Musk has said he hopes to see Starlink operational in the mid-2020s.

First published Feb.

22 at 6:58 a.m. PT.Updated at 8:36 a.m. PT: Added details on the deployment and activation of the satellites and the result of the attempt to catch the fairing.

Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.

Solving for XX: The tech industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”

SpaceX Starlink satellite broadband gets off the ground

A pair of small satellites named for an adventurous Belgian cartoon character could serve as proof of concept for an ambitious global broadband service envisioned by Elon Musk. After days of delays, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the two small satellites, newly dubbed Tintin A and B by Musk (but known more formally as Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b), lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force base in California on Thursday morning. The recycled rocket’s main mission was to launch Spain’s larger Earth-imaging satellite, Paz.

It’s a fairly routine delivery for SpaceX these days.

But once again SpaceX CEO Musk has sparked the public’s imagination with plans to build something unprecedented. In this case, it’s two constellations of satellites, totaling over 11,000 orbiting craft in all, meant to deliver terrestrial-quality broadband to anywhere on the globe, be it an Arctic research station or an African village. The Federal Communications Commission last year granted permission for the operation of the Microsats, but Musk only publicly acknowledged the existence of the prototype satellites this week, saying on Twitter that the Starlink broadband service “will serve [the] least served.”

Today’s Falcon launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband.

If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 21, 2018

Paz and the pair of small satellites were successfully deployed about 11 minutes after the Falcon lifted off. Less than two hours later, Musk reported that the demonstration satellites had successfully deployed and begun communicating with Earth stations. He added that Tintin A and B “will attempt to beam ‘hello world’ in about 22 hours when they pass near [Los Angeles].” Also, the Wi-Fi password is “martians,” Musk joked.

The launch had been delayed three times from its initially scheduled date of Saturday, first to provide extra time to check out launch systems and an upgraded fairing, then because of high-altitude winds. The Falcon 9 booster used to deliver the three satellites to orbit was not recovered. It was previously flown on a mission in August and recovered to be reused for this launch.

SpaceX did try to use a new giant-net-on-a-boat setup that Musk announced after the launch of the Falcon Heavy earlier this month. It attempted to catch the fairing, which is the nose cone that protects the payload during ascent, but Musk reported that it missed its target by a few hundred meters, splashing down intact in the Pacific instead.

Tintin A and B are designed to communicate with each other through optical laser links and with ground stations on Earth. If all goes well and SpaceX receives approval from the FCC to begin launching its first full satellite constellation, we could see hundreds and then thousands of other small satellites being launched to a low Earth orbit to begin spinning up the broadband service.

Most satellite internet customers are currently served by a handful of satellites in high geostationary orbit, but Starlink’s lower-altitude constellations would instead use a swarm of satellites to provide low-latency connectivity that feels more like a cable or fiber-optic connection. All of this is likely several years and many more rocket launches down the road. Musk has said he hopes to see Starlink operational in the mid-2020s.

First published Feb.

22 at 6:58 a.m. PT.Updated at 8:36 a.m. PT: Added details on the deployment and activation of the satellites and the result of the attempt to catch the fairing.

Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.

Solving for XX: The tech industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”

SpaceX Starlink satellite broadband gets off the ground

A pair of small satellites named for an adventurous Belgian cartoon character could serve as proof of concept for an ambitious global broadband service envisioned by Elon Musk. After days of delays, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the two small satellites, newly dubbed Tintin A and B by Musk (but known more formally as Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b), lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force base in California on Thursday morning. The recycled rocket’s main mission was to launch Spain’s larger Earth-imaging satellite, Paz.

It’s a fairly routine delivery for SpaceX these days.

But once again SpaceX CEO Musk has sparked the public’s imagination with plans to build something unprecedented. In this case, it’s two constellations of satellites, totaling over 11,000 orbiting craft in all, meant to deliver terrestrial-quality broadband to anywhere on the globe, be it an Arctic research station or an African village. The Federal Communications Commission last year granted permission for the operation of the Microsats, but Musk only publicly acknowledged the existence of the prototype satellites this week, saying on Twitter that the Starlink broadband service “will serve [the] least served.”

Today’s Falcon launch carries 2 SpaceX test satellites for global broadband.

If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 21, 2018

Paz and the pair of small satellites were successfully deployed about 11 minutes after the Falcon lifted off. Less than two hours later, Musk reported that the demonstration satellites had successfully deployed and begun communicating with Earth stations. He added that Tintin A and B “will attempt to beam ‘hello world’ in about 22 hours when they pass near [Los Angeles].” Also, the Wi-Fi password is “martians,” Musk joked.

The launch had been delayed three times from its initially scheduled date of Saturday, first to provide extra time to check out launch systems and an upgraded fairing, then because of high-altitude winds. The Falcon 9 booster used to deliver the three satellites to orbit was not recovered. It was previously flown on a mission in August and recovered to be reused for this launch.

SpaceX did try to use a new giant-net-on-a-boat setup that Musk announced after the launch of the Falcon Heavy earlier this month. It attempted to catch the fairing, which is the nose cone that protects the payload during ascent, but Musk reported that it missed its target by a few hundred meters, splashing down intact in the Pacific instead.

Tintin A and B are designed to communicate with each other through optical laser links and with ground stations on Earth. If all goes well and SpaceX receives approval from the FCC to begin launching its first full satellite constellation, we could see hundreds and then thousands of other small satellites being launched to a low Earth orbit to begin spinning up the broadband service.

Most satellite internet customers are currently served by a handful of satellites in high geostationary orbit, but Starlink’s lower-altitude constellations would instead use a swarm of satellites to provide low-latency connectivity that feels more like a cable or fiber-optic connection. All of this is likely several years and many more rocket launches down the road. Musk has said he hopes to see Starlink operational in the mid-2020s.

First published Feb.

22 at 6:58 a.m. PT.Updated at 8:36 a.m. PT: Added details on the deployment and activation of the satellites and the result of the attempt to catch the fairing.

Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.

Solving for XX: The tech industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”

Uber’s ExpressPool service offers cheap fares, but you’ll have to walk a bit

If you’re a ridesharing fan, what’s more important, convenient pick-ups and drop-offs or cheap fares? If it’s the latter, then you may be interested to know that Uber has just launched its first new service in three years. Called ExpressPool, it works by grouping together riders going in the same direction and designating a single pick-up point for everyone, not more than a couple of blocks from where you made the ride request.

So, yes, it’s likely to mean a little exercise and taking a bit longer to the moment when you actually climb in the car, but with fares reported to be up to 50 percent cheaper than UberPool, and up to 75 percent cheaper than UberX, what’s not to like? The new ExpressPool service is available now via Uber’s app to riders in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Denver. It’s also up and running in Boston and San Francisco where it was tested over the last few months, and by the end of the week will be available in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Miami.

A nationwide rollout is planned “soon,” the company said. ExpressPool will be seen as a response to similar offerings by rivals, among them Lyft Line, which often works out cheaper than UberPool, Uber’s service that matches riders with other riders going in the same direction, but picks them up wherever they make the ride request. Uber says that with Pool rides, time can be wasted picking up additional riders along the way, but with ExpressPool you’ll all be picked up in the same spot with no detours en route, which could end up making the trip just as quick as a Pool ride.

Essentially, if you don’t mind walking a block or two, Pool Express looks like a sensible option for riders keen on value for money.

“Walking and waiting help us make more optimal matches and provide better, straighter, faster routes with fewer detours, delivering an even more affordable and consistent option than [Uber]Pool to consumers,” Uber’s Ethan Stock explained in a blog post outlining the new service, adding that Express fits with its long-term plan of easing congestion and cutting pollution by “getting more people into fewer cars.”

Editors’ Recommendations

Pentax K-1 Mark II Release Date, Price and Specs

Pentax’s new K-1 Mark II arrives some two years after the original K-1 — that seems to be the general update cycle for all but the entry-level models — with only two real enhancements. Even those are made possible by a single hardware change. But these updates may possibly mean a big improvement for people who need better low-light quality or who use Pentax’s Pixel Shift Resolution mode.

Otherwise, it’s identical to its predecessor in all ways but the name badge. The price has gone up a little. When the K-1 launched in April 2016, the body cost £1,800 and in the interim rose to £1,900.

Now it will cost £2,000 when it ships in March 2018, or £2,400 for a kit with the 28-105mm f3.5-5 lens. (£2,000 is about GBP1,450 or AU£2,600 converted, with real UK and Australian prices TBD.) Pentax inserted a processing accelerator in the image pipeline between the sensor and the image processor that “optimizes” the data. Since noise-reduction quality is limited by processing time — the more time you devote to it, the better it is — the accelerator allows for improved noise reduction.

The result is a claimed native sensitivity of ISO 819,200.

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