SpaceX set to launch first prototype Starlink satellites for global internet

The first test satellites for SpaceX’s global internet constellation are being prepped for launch, 3 years after Musk unveiled the project. The prototype spacecraft, known as Microsat 2a and 2b, are reportedly to be included as secondary payloads on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The primary payload is a 3,000-pound Spanish radar observation satellite called Paz. SpaceX conducted a static-fire test of the Falcon 9, which makes use of a previously flown first-stage booster, at Vandenberg today. The test involved briefly firing up the booster’s rocket engines as a rehearsal for Saturday’s liftoff.
Paz is due to be launched into a 319-mile, nearly pole-to-pole orbit — but SpaceX’s satellites could eventually go higher to test a Ku-band radio communication system in concert with an array of ground stations.
SpaceX has given the lead role for development of the satellite network to a team headquartered in Redmond, Wash.
Documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission indicate that ground stations will be housed at SpaceX facilities in Redmond and Brewster, Wash., as well as at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., and facilities in McGregor and Brownsville in Texas. Another ground station is to be placed at Tesla’s headquarters in Fremont, Calif., which Musk heads as CEO.
SpaceX says it will also be testing satellite communications with receiving terminals built into mobile vans.
The company’s business plan calls for putting thousands of communication satellites in orbit, with limited service starting by 2020. The satellite constellation, informally known as Starlink, eventually would provide low-cost internet access on a global scale.