They're not UFOs: SpaceX broadband satellite cluster to be visible over New Zealand

If you notice a long line of lights travelling quickly through the night sky in the next few weeks, don't worry, it's not a convoy of UFOs, but Elon Musk's satellite broadband project.

A still image of a line of SpaceX Starlink satellites passing overhead in May of 2019. Source: Beyond Space

The lights in the sky are a cluster of satellites being added to the Starlink network, which is being created by SpaceX to provide fast internet to all parts of the globe.

The Starlink project will slowly assemble a mesh of about 12,000 satellites in orbit, but could be in operation with just a few hundred satellites as early as next year.

A total of 60 Starlink satellites were released from a Falcon 9 rocket in the early hours of Tuesday, New Zealand time, and they will eventually join another 60 which were released earlier this year in May.

Over the next few weeks, the string of satellites will be visible at times in the night sky from New Zealand, travelling in unison until they eventually make their way into their assigned positions.

They will appear as a line of fairly bright dots travelling quickly through the sky.

A tool has been developed to allow you to get alerts when the cluster is flying over you, and it can also give you an idea of which direction to look, as well as likely weather conditions.

SpaceX and Musk have said that the revenue from their Starlink broadband network, which will serve both remote and urban areas, will help to fund their plans to travel to Mars.

The company has also indicated that it would like to deploy a similar system to Starlink on Mars itself.

It's expected that Starlink could begin commercial operation as soon as next year.