SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission is back on Earth over the weekend, and Elon Musk already has ideas for making the next mission even better.
The mission, which launched on Wednesday, was the first fully civilian trip to orbit. The group spent three days inside the Crew Dragon capsule conducting science experiments and observing the passage of Earth before descending on Earth on Saturday.
The team had plenty to keep them busy, but future missions could offer a little more digital stimulation. Writing on Twitter before the capsule hit off the coast of Florida, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk suggested that future flights could offer free wireless internet access through its Starlink service.
âDragon will have a warmer and free Wi-Fi next time :)â, Musk written in response to an Inspiration4 article showing the range of foods offered during the mission.
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These creature comforts could help SpaceX’s goal of expanding access to space. While the Sixties Space Race sent a handful of carefully selected astronauts on daring adventures, companies like SpaceX aim to send more people than ever before to tackle a variety of missions.
Inspiration4 was the company’s third crewed mission, but the first non-NASA mission. SpaceX is now planning a series of subsequent civilian missions in partnership with Axiom Space, with the first scheduled for January 2022 at the earliest.
SpaceX Crew Dragon: wireless upgrades on the way
The Crew Dragon already has a communication link with the ground, but evidence suggests it is limited. While observers on Earth were entitled to images and videos of the crew enjoying their trip, the group of four otherwise engaged was notably absent from Twitter for the duration of the mission.
For Inspiration4, NASA provided communications between the ground and the capsule via the Near Space Network. This links the missions to various agencies and business entities up to two million kilometers (1.24 million miles) from Earth. This network reduces approximately 30 terabytes of data per day.
The NASA network uses ground stations to provide line-of-sight communications with missions. It also uses relay satellites, placed in geosynchronous orbit, which can help ensure continuous communications.
Jared Isaacman, the mission’s funder and passenger on board, explained on Twitter that the crew did not limited opportunities to use the network, noting that they only had a limited number of ground station passes to transmit the video because NASA and other agencies had priority. âI suspect there will be a lot of images coming out soon,â he said. âWe had quite a few cameras on board. “
But before returning from the mission, Musk suggested that the company could also connect its pods to the Starlink internet service. SpaceX designed its developing constellation to provide high-speed, low-latency service almost anywhere in the world with a view from the sky, but Musk claimed that the system could also provide service to customers above and below.
âWe would use our Ka parabolas or our laser links for Dragon, Starship or other spaceships as soon as they were above cloud level,â Musk wrote.
The service received a warm response from beta testers on Earth. Customers have reported speeds of over 200 megabits per second, faster than many existing satellite internet connections. SpaceX’s long-term goal is to deliver speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second.
The Reverse analysis – SpaceX’s plans could make Crew Dragon missions more comfortable, but it’s worth noting that the company plans to use these upgrades for its next Starship rocket.
The fully reusable vessel, currently in development at the company’s facilities in Texas, aims to send up to 100 people or 100 tonnes into space at a time. SpaceX is planning a trip with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa with eight passengers around the Moon in 2023. SpaceX also wants to use Starship to send the first humans to Mars, a stepping stone to establish a full-fledged city.
Starlink could make Internet access better than ever for rural areas of Earth, but it could also make the new era of space travel much more comfortable.
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