SpaceX launches first satellites for Musk’s Starlink Internet service

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket with a payload of 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network, lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday, May 23, 2019. (Florida Today via AP)
Updated 24 May 2019

SpaceX launches first satellites for Musk’s Starlink Internet service

  • The rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 10:30 p.m. local time
  • The Falcon 9 was due to release its cargo of 60 satellites into orbit about an hour after Thursday’s launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: High-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX company launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida on Thursday on a mission to carry the first batch of five dozen small satellites into low-Earth orbit for his new Starlink Internet service.
The rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 10:30 p.m. local time (0230 GMT Friday), marking a milestone in a global enterprise aimed at generating cash for Musk’s larger ambitions in space.
The launch came a week after two back-to-back countdowns for the mission were scrubbed — once due to high winds over the Cape and the next night in order to update satellite software and “triple-check” all systems.
The Falcon 9 was due to release its cargo of 60 satellites into orbit about an hour after Thursday’s launch. Each one weighs 500 pounds (227 kg), making it the heaviest payload for any SpaceX rocket to date.
Those satellites are designed to form the initial phase a planned constellation capable of beaming signals for high-speed Internet service from space to paying customers around the globe.
Musk has said he sees the new Starlink venture as an important new revenue stream for his California-based Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, whose launch service income he expects to top out at around $3 billion a year.

Speaking to reporters last week, Musk said that makes Starlink pivotal in helping pay for his larger goals of developing a new spacecraft to fly paying customers to the moon and for eventually trying to colonize Mars.
“We think this is a key stepping stone on the way toward establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon,” said Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who is also chief executive officer of automaker Tesla Inc.
At least 12 launches carrying similar payloads are needed to achieve constant Internet coverage of most of the world, Musk said. Starlink is only currently authorized for operations in the United States.
Musk faces stiff competition. In February, Airbus SE-backed OneWeb launched its own clutch of satellites, while LeoSat Enterprises and Canada’s Telesat are also working to build data networks.
In each network, the tiny satellites orbit closer to Earth than traditional communications satellites, a technological shift made possible by advances in laser technology and computer chips.
Musk said SpaceX would begin approaching customers later this year or next year. As many as 2,000 satellites will be launched per year, with the ultimate objective of placing up to 12,000 into orbit.


Elon Musk wants YOU to build a brain-computer interface

Updated 29 August 2020

Elon Musk wants YOU to build a brain-computer interface

  • Musk fears artificial intelligence might one day pose dangers to the human race
  • His proposed solution: Link computers to human brains so we can keep up

Elon Musk isn't content with electric cars, shooting people into orbit, populating Mars and building underground tunnels to solve traffic problems. He also wants to get inside your brain.
His startup, Neuralink, wants to one day implant computer chips inside the human brain. The goal is to develop implants that can treat neural disorders — and that may one day be powerful enough to put humanity on a more even footing with possible future superintelligent computers.
Not that it's anywhere close to that yet.
In a video demonstration Friday explicitly aimed at recruiting new employees, Musk showed off a prototype of the device. About the size of a large coin, it's designed to be implanted in a person's skull. Ultra-thin wires hanging from the device would go directly into the brain. An earlier version of the device would have been placed behind an ear like a hearing aid.
But the startup is far from a having commercial product, which would involve complex human trials and FDA approval among many other things. Friday's demonstration featured three pigs. One, named Gertrude, had a Neuralink implant.

This video grab made from the online Neuralink livestream shows the Neuralink disk implant held by Elon Musk during the presentation on August 28, 2020. (AFP PHOTO / NEURALINK)

Musk, a founder of both the electric car company Tesla Motors and the private space-exploration firm SpaceX, has become an outspoken doomsayer about the threat artificial intelligence might one day pose to the human race. Continued growth in AI cognitive capabilities, he and like-minded critics suggest, could lead to machines that can outthink and outmaneuver humans with whom they might have little in common. The proposed solution? Link computers to our brains so we can keep up.
Musk urged coders, engineers and especially people with experience having “shipped” (that is, actually created) a product to apply. “You don't need to have brain experience," he said, adding that this is something that can be learned on the job.
Hooking a brain up directly to electronics is not new. Doctors implant electrodes in brains to deliver stimulation for treating such conditions as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and chronic pain. In experiments, implanted sensors have let paralyzed people use brain signals to operate computers and move robotic arms. In 2016, researchers reported that a man regained some movement in his own hand with a brain implant.
But Musk’s proposal goes beyond this. Neuralink wants to build on those existing medical treatments as well as one day work on surgeries that could improve cognitive functioning, according to a Wall Street Journal article on the company's launch.
While there are endless, outlandish applications to brain-computer interfaces — gaming, or as someone on Twitter asked Musk, summoning your Tesla — Neuralink wants to first use the device with people who have severe spinal cord injury to help them talk, type and move using their brain waves.
“I am confident that long term it would be possible to restore someone's full-body motion," said Musk, who's also famously said that he wants to “die on Mars, just not on impact."
Neuralink is not the only company working on artificial intelligence for the brain. Entrepreneur Bryan Johnson, who sold his previous payments startup Braintree to PayPal for $800 million, started Kernel, a company working on “advanced neural interfaces” to treat disease and extend cognition, in 2016. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is also interested in the space. Facebook bought CTRL-labs, a startup developing non-invasive neural interfaces, in 2019 and folded it into Facebook's Reality Labs, whose goal is to “fundamentally transform the way we interact with devices."
That might be an easier sell than the Neuralink device, which would require recipients to agree to have the device implanted in their brain, possibly by a robot surgeon. Neuralink did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.