Besides establishing a human colony on Mars, one of the other goals of Elon Musk's SpaceX is to create a global satellite broadband Internet. The space launch company aims to put thousands of low-cost satellites into low-Earth orbit.
Satellite Internet has a bad reputation but what SpaceX has in mind is a totally different animal.
The end-goal is to be able to provide 1Gbps low-latency broadband Internet access to any location on Earth. These satellites will orbit much closer to Earth than traditional communications satellites, this makes them more suitable for high-speed Internet but means a lot more satellites are needed.
It's been a while since we've heard news about the Internet satellites but now there's a new FCC filing that reveals SpaceX will launch its first two Starlink satellites on Saturday. The Microsat 2a and 2b satellites will hitch a ride on the Falcon 9 that is scheduled to launch on February 17, 2018 at 14:17 UTC. The primary goal of this mission is to launch an Earth observation satellite, which was partly funded by the Spanish Ministry of Defense.
Popular Mechanics writes the two test satellites will test communication with ground stations in the US:
The launch this Saturday will put two test satellites, Microsat 2a and 2b, into orbit. These satellites will test connections with ground stations in Washington, California, and Texas, plus receivers in mobile vans scattered around the country.
If these tests go well, SpaceX could begin launching the first of its satellites later this year, with a functional, if limited, network in place by 2020. This initial network would include about 800 satellites and cover the United States. The company would then begin expanding coverage to the rest of the world.
There are several other companies that aim to create a similar constellation of Internet satellites. SpaceX seems to have an ace here, not only is the company the first to launch two test satellites but its launch costs are naturally going to be the lowest.