SpaceX’s ambitious satellite-based broadband internet project, Starlink, is still in its nascent stages, with fewer than 100 satellites—out of a planned constellation of over 40,000—launched into low-Earth orbit (LEO) just five months ago.
Early Tuesday morning, Musk tweeted a message saying he was sending the tweet “through space via Starlink satellite[s].” Shortly after, he tweeted again with uncontainable excitement, “Whoa, it worked!!”
The tweet was sent using a Starlink terminal at Musk’s house. For the larger public, such service won’t be available for at least another eight months or so.
Musk has said Starlink would need about 400 satellites to provide minor internet coverage and 800 for moderate coverage. The company is expected to reach this scale as soon as mid-2020 with plans to complete six to eight launches, each carrying 60 satellites, by then, SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell told reporters at a press event in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.
Global coverage will require a total of 24 launches, Shotwell said, and every launch after that will enhance the capacity of existing service.
SpaceX has approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch about 12,000 Starlink satellites and recently submitted paperwork for 30,000 additional satellites, making the whole project about five times larger than the total number of Earth-orbiting craft humans have sent up into space since 1957.